Monday, June 25, 2012

You look awesome

Looking at this confident, spunky little girl, it is hard to imagine that she could possibly grow up to be a self-conscious teenager. This is the girl who checks herself in the mirror and literally says, "You look awesome" to her own reflection. In so many ways her disposition is nothing like mine was at her age. She will fearlessly jump from the highest point she can find, while I had to be bribed with saltwater taffy to roll forward over the uneven bars. She'd rather spend her days running as fast as she can, while I preferred to spend my days drawing at the coffee table. In my mind, these differences will serve her well in the future. I imagine her to be a physically and emotionally strong sixteen-year-old girl. The kind of girl who would never let a boy (or anyone else for that matter) treat her with disrespect. So, basically, the opposite of sixteen-year-old me.

I hope these traits are reflections of her true personality and not just her toddler personality that will one day disappear like her round belly and baby curls. But spending my days with high schoolers is a constant reminder of how adolescence can break down even the toughest girl, and deep down I know that she is just one mean comment away from second guessing herself, and I know that some of that is actually my fault.

I discovered my culpability firsthand today during a conversation I accidentally had with my two-year-old. It went something like this:

Me: (glancing at a woman on the cover of a magazine sitting on my kitchen table)

"Those shorts could not be any uglier."

Ella: (looking down at her shorts)

 "Couldn't be uglier?"

Me: (feeling awful)

"Oh buddy, not you. The magazine."

Now, I really don't know if she even knows what the word ugly means, but that isn't the point. What matters is that this one small moment had the potential to teach her something. It says to her that it's okay to ridicule the way people look, that in fact it is very easy to do, and that how other people view how she looks is important.

Do I think I did irreparable damage to my daughter today? No. She's still walking around right now thinking she's the greatest thing ever invented, but it reminded me that I don't have a baby anymore. I have a little girl, and it's my job to set a good example about how to talk about myself and how to talk about other people.

It reminded me that I need to watch what I say so that I can help that spitfire turn into a confident woman, and maybe in the process I can learn how to see myself that way, too. Because Ella B is right, you do look awesome, and so do I.

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