I am the mother of a seven year old daughter. I didn’t know I would have a daughter until she was placed on my chest and I begged her to take her first breath. But after that first inhalation, as her body turned from that terrible lifeless blue-grey into a beautiful living pink, I knew I had a daughter. Having a daughter is a gift and yet a struggle in ways that having a son is not. Oh, I worry about all of them. I worry about how they will grow into the people they can be. But I worry a bit more about her. Mostly because I know what it feels like to be a girl in this world and so I worry a bit differently about her than my boys. But worry is not enough. So I have spent my entire parenting life trying to teach all my children to love themselves and to love others; to see their own gifts and to see other’s gifts as well; to be whole and happy, and made stronger by the challenges they face. But still I worry. Because as much as I love my dear children, and as many times as I have told them they are wonderful, I am like a broken bird with wings taped back together. How can I show them how to fly when I can barely leave the ground myself?
A few days ago my daughter reminded me that no matter what I say to her, she lives in a world that speaks to her as well. All children do. And sometimes the words spoken the loudest are not the ones we want our children to listen to. But it happens. It certainly happened to me. And so perhaps the conversation I need to have right now is with the little girl I once was. And the little girl that I still am, for even though time has passed, some days it is her eyes that view the world, her ears that hear people’s comments. She is scared and scarred, and barely held together with bits of tape and glue. And this is what should be said to Kristi…
You will meet lots of people in this world. Some will be kind and some will be terrible. Please know that whether people do kind or terrible things to you, those are their actions. They are no reflection of who you are or what kind of person you are. You control your actions and that, and only that, shows what kind of person you are.
And you can be anything you want to be.
The world is made of all kinds of people…tall, short, skinny, chubby, knock-kneed, bow-legged, smooth skinned, pock-marked. For every girl you wish you looked like, there is one that wishes she looked more like you.
You will not always be able to run faster than the boys. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. You only fail if you stop running.
It is good to be a girl. Your dad wouldn’t treat you any better if you had been a boy. So dance if you want to. Wear pink. Wear pink dresses and dance in them, if that is what you really want to do.
The first time you weigh more than 100 pounds, you should not be horrified. You should not compulsively exercise for three hours in hopes of losing those 1.5 pounds. Hating your body is not okay…at age ten or ever.
The first time you make yourself vomit, it will make you feel in control of your body. But it isn’t worth it. Food is not an enemy or a friend. It is only fuel.
The first time you go three days on water and a few bites of vegetables is the first time you give in to the voice that tells you that you will never be good enough. That voice is lying. Ignore that voice and the people who compliment you on being so skinny. Instead, hear the few voices that ask you if you are okay.
The first time you just ignore a boyfriend putting you down is the first time you put yourself in real danger. The next boy will be worse, much worse.
The first time a boy tells you “Well, you have a pretty face at least” is the first time you should make sure he never sees it again.
The first time you walk away from a boy promising you the world is the first day you actually receive it.
The first time you meet the right man for you, you will know it. And he will be nothing like any boy you’ve ever liked before. He will make you see yourself as he sees you…more than a pretty face. You will finally see a little girl grown-up to be the best person she can be today, a bit worn in places, with cracks where the strain proved too great. But there will be tape and glue holding her together. And she will be so very thankful that she lived through her darkest moments to see the dawn turning the horizon pink, a life restarted.
And that tape and glue? It will be the two little boys and the little girl who love you. And the one man in your life who never asked you to be anything other than what you are…a scared and scarred soul with a big smile and an even bigger heart who will make sure her own children hear her voice louder than all the other voices….