I was combing Jo's hair after her bath tonight. She was warm and soft and sweet with scents of her shampoo, conditioner, and coconut oil: a combination I'm quite sure is exactly what Heaven smells like. I smoothed her damp hair and tucked it behind her ear while we talked.
"Why does my hair swoop this way?"
"That's your natural part. It's just the way your hair falls."
"I kind of like it."
"I absolutely love it."
"You do? Why?"
"Because it's one of the many things God did to make you YOU! And I love you. I'm crazy about you."
"Mama? Do you love yourself?"
"Yes! I'm awesome! Do you love yourself?"
Let me tell you something about my oldest baby girl- she is razor sharp. She is an excellent study of people. She can read me, and everyone else, like her father can. I find it both fascinating and intimidating.
She would have seen right through me if I had lied to her when she asked me her question. Her question so important she had to pause before she asked it.
Maybe years ago I would have answered that differently. Or in a way that she knew wasn't genuine the minute it fell out of my mouth. But over the years, I have grown to love myself, truly, and I believe it's one of the best things I could ever do for my kids, perhaps especially for my girls.
It is not new information that a child's same-sex parent is the most influential role model in their little lives. It's hardly groundbreaking for me to say that telling her to love herself as is and then turning around in the same breath and picking yourself apart- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - falls flat.We know that seeing us confident gives them permission to be confident, to be bold and take risks and go for what they want. But knowing and doing are two different things, and I just don't think this is something you get to phone in. It's too important.
You really do have to find a way to love yourself, and it doesn't have to, can't, shouldn't be pretend. You can own your truth, whatever that is. You can look at things as they really are, or really are to you; but you also have to acknowledge and embrace the loveliness there, too.
It is lovely the way you take care of your babies.
It is lovely how you pray for others.
It is lovely the way your mind works.
It is lovely the way your hips move when you're in a hurry.
It is lovely that you were uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe.
It is lovely the way your eyes light up when you get an idea.
It is lovely the way you cared for your mother when she wasn't well.
It is lovely when you laugh a deep belly laugh with your head thrown back.
It is lovely the way you fight to make your world a more just place.
It is lovely when you rest.
It is lovely how you play.
It is lovely how you work.
It is lovely the way the wind grabs your hair.
It is lovely that you have the power to heal a boo-boo with a kiss.
It is lovely the way you have so much hope.
It is lovely when you're vulnerable.
It is lovely how you have grown strong through difficult times.
Maybe you allow yourself to see one thing lovely in you. Start there. Tend to it; root it deeply, see how it grows; see how it branches off and wraps itself around every part of you. Maybe when you shift your focus, you find more each day that you love about yourself. I pray that you do, and I pray that you allow that light to shine outward on those around you. Especially on your little ones. Our sons and daughters both need to see that womanhood is beautiful and bountiful and varied. And wonderful. Knowing this, letting them know this about us as fact would be such an enormous gift to give them. Because the day will inevitably come when they look up and ask you, with or without words:
Do you love yourself?