Thursday, April 7, 2011

They are perfect to me

Several years ago, I read an article regarding the mixed messages that are sent to our daughters (I didn't have any at the time.) telling them that they are "pretty" when they have their hair, make up, accessories, and outfits done to perfection. Actually, it was probably telling them that they would be pretty after doing those things. I made note of that, telling myself that I wouldn't do that if I were to ever have daughters. I was going to teach them that they were always pretty.

But, as soon as my daughter B came to us, I wanted her to feel loved, accepted and "pretty" even though she would never look like the rest of our family. I've always called her "Pretty Girl". Then when S came along, I didn't want her not to feel pretty by not saying it to her, so she too became my "Pretty Girl".

We've had a lot of fun over here. The girls and I. They've inherited a love for lip gloss, and purses, heels, dresses, hair accessories, jewelry, princess dresses, fairy dresses, fairy wings, perfume, (they have extraordinary taste) and all things girly.

At just two and three years of age, my daughters have caught on to this whole pretty thing. They sneak out to the car and apply my lip gloss and then ask me if they're pretty. The same goes for dresses and perfume and other makeup. Obviously, my mental note about telling my girls they are pretty when all decked out wasn't written in Sharpie.

The other day B was in a princess dress and fell down on the floor sobbing that she wouldn't look like a princess without lip gloss. Just this past week at the grocery store, she told me that she needed lip gloss to make her look pretty. I gasped as I heard her say that. Had I really taught my daughters that they needed all the outside influences to be pretty? As we stood there next to the red leaf lettuce in the grocery store, I explained that she was pretty all the time and not just when she had lip gloss on. I was ready to go granola for life. I practically do. Thank goodness for Sundays because I look good at least one day a week. As we made our way around the produce section I thought about how I might teach my daughters that they are beautiful. Truly beautiful and how to recognize it in every stage of their lives.

I haven't stopped thinking about it.

I see the world's influence on beauty all around me. The songs, the magazines, movies, makeover shows, billboards, photo shopping, etc. It's all around us. The pressure to be good enough. Look good enough. To look cute, pretty, hot, skinny, stunning, beautiful, gorgeous or even perfect.

My heart is full. It was fifteen years ago today that I sat on my couch watching 60 minutes, while C and A were running around playing with their Easter baskets and D was sitting at the kitchen table making a wax model for school. It was a 60 minutes that I had looked forward to watching. Our beloved prophet Gordon B. Hinckley was to be interviewed. I remember watching it with a smile, grateful that he was my prophet. They also interviewed other prominent men in our LDS church. I remember hearing a story from Willard Marriott, the owner of the Marriott Hotels, that made me turn to D and tell him what a neat story that was. You can read the entire thing here. I found it online yesterday. I cried and cried as I read it. It was as though I had just watched it yesterday. It was just as I had remembered it. There it was with the exact date and even the mention of it being Easter Sunday. I felt like I had found a piece of my very own personal history. A real treasure.

That Easter Sunday, and just four hours after watching my Prophet be interviewed, I too would have a story similar to Brother Marriott's. I had seen a miracle. And it was beautiful.

I'm used to my burned legs. They're me. They're beautiful. They're a reminder of the miracles I witnessed and a loving Heavenly Father that knows me personally. I see my legs all the time. I see the scars and grafts and just recognize them as my legs.

Remember that picture of me showing off my cowboy boots? That was the first time in fifteen years that I had seen my legs. Looking at them, not down at them. I saw a graft like anyone else would see it.

I think about my legs. I'll be honest. I haven't always loved them. I remember a good guy friend in High School telling me that I didn't have any ankles. That one stuck. I must have penned that mental note with a Sharpie. I have huge calves. Over the last several years I've added grafts, scars from an ACL repair, a dog bite, varicose and spider veins. The world would hide my legs. They're anything but perfect!

There was a time where I couldn't even imagine walking again. My new skin was so tight that my knees wouldn't bend. I worried that the grafts would pop off. That I would be back in the operating room to repair them. (Remember I'm a worrier. It runs my life, but I'm working on that.)

I think of all the things I've been able to do with my legs since then. I was able to play basketball again with my sisters. It was just 5 minutes of playing before my knee decided to go out and need surgery. But, those five minutes of play and hearing my dad/high school coach say that I still had it, will keep me going the rest of my life. Thank you dad.

I've taken up running and done a lot of it. I've run with my children. As a sprinter growing up I never thought I'd run long distances for fun. But I ran a half marathon just before having little g.

All my bulging veins remind me of the four pregnancies I've had since then. I'm grateful for each one of my children.

Although I didn't appreciate the dog bite, it takes me back to when I went to check on one of my young women when I was serving as the president. I'll never stop thinking about her and wondering if she is okay.

I've learned that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. I recently heard that we see what we're looking for. It really is all about looking for the good. I can't help but do that with my legs. You can read more here. I want my children to recognize what makes people beautiful. Yes, personal appearance/grooming is a factor. But to really recognize the selflessness, the patience, the generosity, the humility, the confidence, the integrity, the positive attitude, the virtue, and the personal experiences that make a person who they are, are the qualities that really make a person beautiful.

I'll continue to tell my daughters that they're pretty. But it won't be conditioned on the fact of whether or not they have make up on, the perfect cute little earrings, or a new dress. I want to be the one that teaches them what beautiful is and not what the world says it is. I want my children to recognize the Lord's hand in making them beautiful. It's a process. It comes through trials, experiences, having faith, and choosing to see good. I want them to be able to recognize it in others.

After all, it's much more than becoming pretty. It's about becoming beautiful. Because that kind of beauty is truly attractive and timeless.

We believe that when we are resurrected, our bodies will be in their perfect state. I hope that my legs remain the way that they are, because they are perfect to me.


Erika said...

I agree. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect. Not only in looks, but in everything I think. You know I agree with you on the over-editing aspect. And I do agree that as women we need to find our self worth in places other than makeup/hair/clothes.

I definitely think that we should teach our daughters when they are young!

Great thoughts.

Angie said...

beautiful post. The concept of beauty is so fraught these days, whether it is girly trappings or weight and size. I once sat with a bunch of kindergarteners as they talked about what a diet was. It was both hilarious and terrifying to hear them parrot and process what their own mothers say and do around them. I watch my twelve year old daughter struggle with her size and how it differs from what is in the media definition of beauty. But I imagine my skinny boys will have similar struggles. The trick as mothers I think is to really believe and embody the embracing of function and miracle that is a body--as you described--so that our children can get that despite the hot mess that the world would teach them. Then they will be able to hold on to that real definition of beauty and perfection for themselves.

Megan said...

When I read your cowboy boots post, I didn't even notice your grafts.

I appreciate this post about beauty and am reminded about what I should say to my daughters. (And how not to say it.) Thank you for your thoughts and your wonderful example.

Anonymous said...

That was a very touching post. I have an 8 inch scar down the front of my chest that peaks out of the top of most of my blouses. It has taken time for me to come to a resolve that this is part of me. It now symbolizes strength, courage, and the miraculous hand of God. Thank you for your blog as in a moment of weakness I was reminded of God's hand in ALL things. Thank you, Tina Schmidt

Cheri said...

hey girl. Love the post! you always inspire me...

LeAnne said...

you're legs look pretty good to me. You are beautiful, your kids are beautiful and it doesn't matter what you look like.

Lynn said...

I am bad about keeping up with blogs but you have to know that this post made me cry. Thank you for reminding me that we truly are beautiful and perfect because we are daughters of God.