Thursday, August 9, 2012
A Face Only a Mother Could Love
If things continue this way, middle school is going to be rough. Truth be told, P comes from a gene pool that includes a tendency to be overweight and have frizzy hair, bad vision, pale skin, moles and an abundance of body hair. To my darling son, your father and I apologize in advance.
The good news is, the same collective of traits also includes the ability to overcome the fat gene, hair that miraculously turned straight and shiny, skin that will get golden if enough sunscreen is used, pretty eyes, warm smiles, great senses of humor and big hearts. Sorry kid, you're stuck with the moles, the body hair and you'll probably be in glasses by the time you're three (hey, neither of us ever had braces.)
As a frizzy-haired, overweight teenager I placed extraordinary focus on these, my shortcomings and I often wondered if my parents did the same. When my mother took me prom dress shopping was she, a size two, horrified that she was buying her 16-year-old daughter a size 12 dress? At 17, when a boy with a car came to pick me up for a date, did my father wonder what any teenage boy wanted to do with a chubby girl who had a tendency to break out pretty badly once a month? I have a feeling these thoughts never crossed their minds and if they did, I never knew.
I could argue that they were just being kind, but to this day when my parents look back at my teenage years the words they use to describe me are funny, wild, smart, a "handful." Never once have they used the words fat or awkward or made fun of the ill-fitting clothes I tried to wear because the skinny girls were wearing them. Sometimes I even get annoyed that they don't mention more often how chubby I was because I feel like they might not notice how I lost 80 pounds in my early twenties. How I went from being a girl so insecure that I would do anything to avoid being called fat to a woman so confident that I don't even try on clothes before I buy them.
Now that I have a son of my own, I realize that a parent sees her child differently from how that child sees himself. Because as parents, we see the whole picture. Yes, if you break down P into tiny little fragments, he is chubby, he is ginger and girls do make him cry. But put him all together and he is delicious. He has giant eyes that actually glisten when he smiles. The only thing better than his big smile is his even bigger laugh. He is a brilliant dancer and even though girls his age make him cry, he gives Mommy, Daddy and his stuffed animals the sweetest hugs you can imagine.
As parents, we don't see the tiny pieces of our children. We don't focus on the shortcomings that they will one day hone in on so closely. We only see the total package. The adorable, the hilarious, the smart and the sweet. As parents, it's now our job to take our fat-necked, awkward little bulldozers and remind them that these things don't define them. It is now our job to show them what we see and remind them that we see who they really are.
It's a difficult job, but I am reminded that even if we don't 100% succeed in instilling blissful ignorance in our children, we can do enough to instill the kind of confidence it takes to know that no matter what "flaws" they find in themselves, the total package is far greater than the sum of those less-than-perfect-parts. It is also our job to throw in a good, swift, kick in the ass if and when our children get so full of themselves that they don't behave how a good, kind person should, but that comes later.
For me, it took some time, but how lucky am I that I now finally see myself the way my parents do? Beautiful. Smart. Funny. Good.