Last night I held my normally full-of-herself child as she cried, distraught over the fact that she suddenly decided she was ugly. When prompted, she told me through sniffles and tears that no one had said or done anything to her to make her think it... she'd just been looking in the mirror and decided it for herself.
Sigh. Big, sad sigh. I took her face in my hands and I assured her that she is indeed beautiful... that she has skin and hair others only dream of... that she has a smile that lights up the room and eyes like melted chocolate. I told her this is an awkward age for most girls, though she is far less awkward than many (which is so very true) and certainly far less awkward than I was at her age (all knees and elbows and stringy hair, still waiting to grow into my nose). I told her that so many people tell me how beautiful she is -- even my friend Todd, who never, ever lies, doesn't especially like kids, and refuses to acknowledge that even babies are cute.
Then I reminded my little girl that even though she is indeed pretty on the outside, what's most important is what's inside. I told her that if she keeps her heart and mind open and her spirit generous; if she cares for people without judgment; if she allows herself to be ruled by compassion and love instead of criticism and fear; and if she's confident in herself and and believes she's capable of amazing things, she will be even more beautiful than she is right now.
She left my embrace smiling her sunlit smile. She felt better. She kissed me, thanked me, and told me she loved me. Then she went off to watch Hannah Montana.
I sat for a while, a little piece of my heart broken. I know she has to hurt sometimes in order for her to appreciate the times when things are wonderful. I know it. I know there will be more hurts, real and imagined... there will be more hugs and assurances... there will be more lapses in confidence... and even more hugs and assurances. I can't stop any of it. I wouldn't if I could, as I know it's part of life. All the same, I'm steeling my heart for the breaks to come.
But we'll make it through... both of us... my beautiful girl and me. I know it.