My first childbirth experience was one that I was determined to go as smooth as possible, but I knew to be realistic. I knew it wouldn’t be a natural birth (my tolerance for pain is lower than temperature this week in North Carolina). I had my bag ready a month before. In it was my mother’s gown, photo albums, card games, puzzle books, and music. When things got to the level of me being delirious I wanted to be remember what amazing conclusion I’d be doing. The birth of my first child Victoria. The song I picked was Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?”
And she certainly was. I remember the first time I laid eyes on her. How did I get the distinct blessing of being this perfect little being’s Mother. I can still smell her hair and hear her catlike screeches. She was absolutely stunning!
Thirteen years later, she still is. She has her nana’s smile, legs that would make Brooke Shields jealous, and the heart of the most giving person I know. I still ask how was I so lucky to be her mother. Her face cheers me up no matter what mood I’m in. She is so gorgeous!
Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel the same way. My daughter doesn’t see her beautiful face. All she sees is acne, crooked teeth with braces, stringy hair, and height that immediately grabs the attention of everyone who sees her.
I hear my daughter say:
“I’m ugly. I hate my braces. My legs are too long. My face is too bumpy and my skin is peeling.”
I know this is normal. We’ve all gone through puberty. We’ve all said those very same things. And if you’re like me, the time went by so fast it’s now not a big deal. I try to tell my daughter that. I say, “This is just a phase. It’ll pass.”
I actually found myself moving from sympathy to anger. Her self-image started to take an unacceptable turn. Not only was my daughter constantly referring to herself as ugly she is basically giving permission to others to do the same. I check her social media accounts and she’ll post “I know I’m ugly….” Sometimes I don’t think she’s joking. It’s heartbreaking and infuriates me at the same time.
I’ve given her books to read about growing up and all of her emotions being normal and tell her every chance I get how beautiful she is. Inside and out. I remind her how special she is to her teachers and friends as well as family members. She still has a low self-image.
Now of course, if a boy says it she wonders around the house like she is Ariel in the Little Mermaid. Remember that part when she was spinning around singing and her sisters said “Oh she’s got it bad.” Yep that’s my child. Typical middle schooler, I know. Of course she accepts this compliment much easier from a boy than when I tell her. She believes it but when he moves on to the next…her heart is broken. Again, life. I know. It’s what they do in middle.
But I’m worried for several reasons. One, I don’t want this to develop into something that causes her unnecessary pain. I take everything serious when it comes to my children. I’m not taking any chances. And secondly, I don’t want her to grow dependent on validations of her beauty from the opposite sex. And perhaps what my anger stems from his cyber bullying. I don’t want anyone to think it’s ok to belittle her because she thinks little of herself physically. I need her to be strong and confident. And just how will I address this. What can I do? I have a few ideas:
- The first thing is understand and accept I can’t force her to see what I see. I don’t want to push her away by doing too much and being overbearing.
- The second thing is I will admire her. Every day before school I will tell her something that I see that is exquisite and unique about her. I can start with her amazing ability to care for her fellow students.
- The third thing I will do is give her a book of daily affirmations to read to herself. Something short and simple.
- Fourth thing is I will continue to pay close attention to her circle of friends. Perhaps some of them could benefit from some positive reinforcements as well. What would you add to the list?
All of these could lead to an unimaginable event. In 2014, 46 North Carolina children and teenagers died by suicide. I can’t imagine the thought of losing my daughter. We have to be proactive about the mental stability of our children.
If these steps don’t help her change her way of thinking, I’m all for finding the right kind of therapy and counseling. It’s important to know professionals are trained specifically to address these areas of needs. Not necessarily a school counselor, they have enough to deal with but I can start there.
I’ll go to the ends of the world to get her what she needs. She is lovely, wonderful, and precious…since she was one minute old.