Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the World

Bria at the Zoo

My very beautiful Bria eating taco salad at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.  Love those freckles.

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?
Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. Ainsley is terrified of the escalator and she has seen it quite a few times... Isaac is kind of a little jumpy, but does it. :)

    So since your children are older, and I have no answers... Will you teach me when the time comes for me? Thank you.

    By the way. I think you and your girls are absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Scary how fast kids get to that age. "Am I having this discussion with her already?" Glad she has a mom with the caring and wisdom to help her realize she doesn't have to make herself beautiful because she already is. Real beauty, not the kind that is measured by a price tag. The latter is pricey while the former... priceless :)

  3. Wow, I LOVE this post and I feel just like you in all of it.

    The escalators...
    The Beverly Hillbillies...
    My girls LOVING fashion...
    Not having TV in our house...

    And yet, we feel the same way, "not pretty enough" Why is that? I wonder too.

    I think just keeping things simple as long as you can? I really have no idea. My girls are almost 11 and almost 8. They LOVE clothes and cute girly stuff. They also have the blessing/curse of having two older cousins that give them all of their hand-me-downs. I think it is such a great blessing. Now that Zoe's almost 11, I don't know how she feels about it.

    I try to remind my kids to look for the good in others (not HOW they look). I feel very blessed to have all sorts of friends that come in all shapes and sizes and colors and styles. I think exposing them to all sorts of people and helping them see their true beauty.

    I really don't know, Lora, I'm looking forward to reading some more ideas.

    I did hear a funny quote this morning, "Some girls should EAT make-up so they can be pretty on the inside too!"

    It's definitely something about women from the beginning of time.
    Thanks for making me think about it some more. :)

  4. P.S. You and your girls are SO beautiful! Inside and Out :)

  5. Whaaaat?!?? You tell Bria she IS beautiful! Inside and Out! Though the only thing that really matters is the inside of course. The outside is just icing on the cake. Bria (and all of your beautiful girls for that matter), are lucky because they have both!

    Remind her that even when she doesn't do her hair, or is in her pajamas, that she should smile confidently because SHE is a daughter of God, and she is so lucky to know that! It will radiate her true beauty through and through. I've found in working with the YW, that it helps them to know of their self worth when they are complimented on the things that are lasting... Not WHAT they are wearing, but WHO they are. They are smart, beautiful, wonderful, kind, giving, important daughters of God each with their own purpose. They need to KNOW their potential. We do live in a world saturated with self-confidence destroyers unfortunately, but with the Gospel we have the very best gifts and tools we could ever ask for :)

    Not going to lie, of course I LOVE clothes too :) HOWEVER, my mom has ingrained in me since the time I could talk that it doesn't matter what I am wearing or not wearing, etc. What matters is what I am doing to develop myself and to develop my talents to reach my full potential...and who I served that day. She was always making sure I reached outside of myself...which I think fostered a lot of self confidence. When I was a baby and the stock market crashed (much as it is doing now), my parents lost everything and we lived in an apartment for 8 years...I never even knew the difference though. I think it is FABULOUS that Bria isn't exposed to huge fashionable malls, etc. while she is at such a crucial and impressionable stage. By the time she is out in the "real" world, hopefully she will have developed all the internal self confidence she needs to withstand the influences. With you as her mother Lara, I have no doubt that she will!!!

    I've been involved with this program quite a may check it out! Bria is old enough to attend if she wants to next summer and she can come stay with us if you want to send her :)

  6. Oh wow, do I understand this (personally. Not with kids yet.) I went to a wedding shower about two weeks after Ethan was born, and I was wearing an ugly t-shirt and jeans (before I got there I was really proud that I could actually fit into my jeans). When I got there, every single person had makeup, hair, and clothes that were perfect and clearly expensive. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. It took me a long time to realize that I didn't want to be those people. I want to be me.

    I am constantly working on helping my children to know how beautiful and special they are, regardless of what they wear.

  7. Even though I grew up in a bigish town, with malls and so on, I now live in a small town like you. I didn't realize that your town was smaller than ours....amazing. Anyway, I get very overwhelmed when I go home with all the choices for everything. I remember feeling that way when I came back from Bulgaria as well. It's definatley made me want to have a simpler life for sure. I just laugh though when people say to me, "How can you possibly live without....." I don't know, you just do and after a while you don't really miss it. Although, I could do with a Target in town, that would be nice. :)

  8. We live in the middle of several huge malls, some of the biggest in the country, and I still spent an hour last month with my 3yo riding one in the closest mall, up and down, up and down. He was so proud of himself that he can do it. It was fun to watch.

  9. We had an upscale mall in San Jose. I just felt like I needed to dress-up to go. That's all.
    And sometimes I compare that to the celestial kingdom. You'll be comfortable in the kingdom that you achieve...
    I will not be achieving the westgate mall, but it does have some nice clothes. :D

  10. I've been thinking about this post all day. Fortunately, we’re not quite at the age yet that it’s all-consuming, but I did have my Kindergartener inform me last year that she *had* to have high-heeled boots because *everybody* in her class had them and she was the *only* one who didn't.

    I just want her to remain a little girl for longer ... but the world seems to want them to grow up faster and faster (really high-healed boots as a 5 y/o?).

    Thx for stopping by my blog - love yours!

  11. totally love this!! Your girls are beautiful! I have three girls, one just starting High school this year in a small town. It can be so hard. And believe me, kids can be so mean. It makes me cry. I think the best thing you can do is keep the lines of communication open and love them, love them, love them.

  12. I love this post. Very insightful and great writing too. Your blog is beautiful and so are all the pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  13. This is a tough one for me to teach my daughters as well, largely because I still haven't quite learned this. I don't care about expense, but I care way too much about my weight, my face, and my overall appearance. I sometimes get complimented that I always look nice and put together. I hate that remark, though because the problem with that is, I canNOT go anywhere otherwise. I would feel so inadequate. It's one of those things that I can intellectually overcome, but clearly in my heart I place too much of my value on my looks.