Every time we go on a vacation I forget something. It's usually something small, like my toothbrush or my contact solution. Sometimes it's big, like the time I forgot my camera (who goes on vacation without a camera?). I really should just make a checklist and be done with it, but I'm sure I'll just forget to put something on the checklist, and then that item will never make it with me on vacation. Best to just be surprised.
True to form, in Chicago I forgot my bathing suit. The girls were highly annoyed with me since they wanted to swim as soon as we got to the hotel, but I had no suit. So, we decided to pop on over to the mall that was right there next to the hotel and get me one. I didn't feel too bad about it, since the one I forgot is nearing the end of its life and it was probably time.
Taking my children to the mall--especially a big one like the one in Chicago--is an adventure. Let me remind you that we live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the population of the entire thing is about 300,000 people. My town--which is kind of a big city in Yooper land--has a population of maybe 8,000 or so. We do not have big giant malls anywhere near us. Therefore, my children do not know how to use escalators. Sophia and Chloe are scared to death of them. They can't figure out how to get on, so I have to hold their hands and kind of drag them on with me. Then they can't figure out how to get off, either, and I have to drag them again. But even though they are scared of them, they are at the same time SO EXCITED about riding on an ESCALATOR! They are AMAZING!
And it's a little embarrassing, because we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies whenever we are in the vicinity of a moving staircase.
And then there are the stores. My children have never seen so many stores! So many options! So much fashion! And they do love fashion, my daughters. We have WalMart and ShopKo and JCPenney. And as far as fashionable stores go, Maurice's is as good as it gets where we live. So you can imagine that walking into Nordstrom and taking the escalator up to the swimwear department was enough to send my children into some sort of rapture.
Bria is my child who especially loves clothes and hair and makeup. Part of it is her age (have I mentioned lately that she is starting middle school this fall? When did that happen?), but mostly she's just always been like that. She has always loved shopping for clothes, and I haven't been able to buy her an item of clothing without first having her approval since she was about 4. At least, not if I wanted her to ever wear it.
So here we were in Nordstrom, and Bria is helping me choose some bathing suits to try on, while simultaneously being completely overwhelmed and dazzled by all of the style around her: Stylish clothing, stylish mannequins, stylish clerks, stylish shoppers, stylish rugs, stylish shoes, stylish everything.
And she leaned over to me and she said, "Mom, I don't feel very pretty in here."
So many thoughts ran through my head as she said those words.
First of all, I didn't feel very pretty in there, either. When you are surrounded by such seeming perfection and beauty it becomes pretty easy to be super self-conscious of every flaw you have. I weigh too much, my nose is wrong, I forgot to pluck my eyebrows, my lipstick is rubbing off, I should have worn my contacts, my shoes are worn out, and a million other things that don't even matter in the grand scheme of life.
Second, Bria is beautiful. I know I'm her mother and mothers always see the beauty in their children, as they should, but I know Bria is beautiful. Inside and out.
Third, I'm glad we live in a small town. And that we don't really have TV in our household. And that so far, the friends my children have had aren't overly interested in looking like fashion magazines. And Bria hasn't really been exposed to big malls and such because we've lived in smaller towns since she was 5. And I didn't go shopping when we lived in Phoenix because we were poor students. When I say she loves to shop, she is perfectly happy with whatever stores we have access to.
Fourth, I can't shelter her from the world forever. She's going to have to learn for herself that she doesn't have to dress in all the name brands or wear the right shoes to be considered pretty. But sometimes middle school and high school make that hard. I want my daughters to know that beauty is so much more than what you wear or even what you look like. It is how you act, how you treat others, your relationship with the Lord and your family, your smile. We are all beautiful.
Fifth, I'm not entirely sure how to teach them this lesson. It's a tough one for sure. One that I'm not sure I've learned completely for myself yet. I still compare myself to the women around me and on TV and in magazines on a daily basis. I wonder if women have compared themselves to other women from the beginning of time? The answer is probably yes.
And then I looked Bria in the eyes and told her that she is beautiful. We had a nice discussion about all of those things that ran through my mind, and I hope we can continue the conversation as she navigates her adolescence.
What are you doing to teach your daughters to live in the world, but not to be worldly or base their worth on a pair of designer jeans?