My Grace.

Is four. She is full of life and spunk.  She loves wearing dresses with her brothers boots and singing Adele on the back porch.  She likes to listen certain days, and likes to push the limits on others.  She loves to giggle, hates smelly breath, and twirls and jumps and dances.  She is reckless with her love and her imagination.  She knows she is loved.  She knows what it’s like to be really really sick.  Yet, she still loves her doctor and likes to pretend she’s her at home.  She makes me nervous around swimming pools and water in general…she does everything feet first with her entire being. She has no fear, unless it’s spiders.  She loves her feet, they are scraped and usually dirty from the sand box and cement on the way there. They are small like mine, and take a long time to grow, but look like hers. They are uniquely hers.   She loves her hands, she bites her finger nails still but once in a while she doesn’t and gets to have her nails painted.  She loves ner knees, she likes to color on them with markers.  She loves her arms, they are strong.  She can do pull ups and headstands, she loves to wear dresses and flex her muscles and does a mean hula.  She loves her legs, her shins are always bruised from falling, jumping.  Her ankles are small, just like mine.She loves her hair, she flips it around, gets it tangled and recently has decided she only wants to wear it down.  Her eyes are expressive. Her mouth uses words like “Actually” and “And then I was…” but she is still a very little girl.  Her favorite books is an old school Fairy Tale book that I’ve had to tape up.  She loves to tell me the story of Goldilocks.  She loves glitter and pink.  She loves kicking “butts.” She can be bossy, but also just wants to be heard.  She is just as easily Spiderman as she is a princess. She wants to be a doctor and a unicorn when she grows up, and a girl who eat Lollipops and Chicken.

And I am terrified for her every day that she will find her self worth tied up in her looks.  That she will find her self worth tied up in if she’s the best.  Tied up in what size she wears.  I am terrified for my daughter to live in this world.  Kids are still mean, but the internet is meaner. And the imagery, the grade of perfection, the pressure  terrifies me.

So I’m going to let a little loose in this post.  I’m going to swear a little.Because I’m pissed off. And I’m going to challenge all of you, my small handful of readers if you have a daughter to think about these things…for the sake of our daughters…for the sake of our daughters…for the sake of Grace…

1. Stop putting yourself down in front of your kids.  Stop using the word fat.  Or asking your husband, “Do I look fat?” Stop talking about your flab, and stop allowing your kids to start to think you are not good enough, that you are not beautiful. That your self worth is in how you look.  It’s NOT. Also stop talking about other people being fat, stop using the word. It’s stupid. Not because I’m politically correct, because it’s mean.  I can honestly say I was obese. I had a doctor tell me that.  While it was true, I will never forget that moment, and I already knew that…SO STOP. Shut UP!

2.  For the Sake of our Daughters, stop using your own issues with food in your parenting. Don’t make your kids paranoid about organic produce, and if they use a little mayo. Offer good choices, lots of them,  but no child should be paranoid about hydrogenated corn syrup.  Dairy Queen is not from Satan, everything should be ok in Moderation. Yes, even french fries.   Don’t put your issues on your kids. No one is overweight from Apples. No one is overweight from Carrots.  No one is overweight from eating a piece of bread. Cleanses are dumb.  Again Moderation.  Just like the “clean the plate” club was one of the worst ideas ever so is this ultra clean eating food trend.   And maybe you don’t push your ideals on your kids, but maybe you haven’t eaten the same meal as your family since your kids were born, and you talk openly about the dangers of “certain” food…well then you might as well just refer back to number 1.

3. Compliment your kids on who they are, not just if they got a great grade, but on the fact that they cleaned up their books, that they led the prayer during dinner. That they shared their blanket when their brother was cold.  Teach them about volunteering and charity.  Compliment them on their uniqueness not just on their looks. The same should go for our friends, our family members.

4. For the Sake of our Daughters limit their internet access, and the E channel. Remove Magazines that promote fitness and dieting because I’m not saying they should be sheltered from it, but they aren’t mature enough to know that their brains are growing and they need sustenance which is food.  While your at it, limit your own as well.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t compare them to others, and don’t let them compare themselves.  I’ve heard it over and over and I agree, Comparisons are deadly.  They are.  Truly.

6.  For the Sake of our daughters, don’t take them to “Victoria’s Secret” with you, or watch the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” with you…or let them look at “Abercombie and Fitch” Ad’s…Because really? Or Sports Illustrated Swimsuit addition…What do they promote? Nothing kids need.  Nothing close to what makes someone truly beautiful.  What is beautiful is watching my Mom play basketball with my son Daniel and getting the giggles.  What is beautiful is us all holding my sister Melissa when her husband was deployed in Iraq and we were at a family wedding, as we cried together.  What is beautiful was watching my sister Erin deliver my niece Maya, and seeing their faces together for the first time.  What is beautiful is dancing with my sister Hannah in her full length mirror and laughing.  What is beautiful is having my youngest sister Kaitlin fall asleep on my shoulder, as I admire her super awesome mascara and watching her so peaceful.  Those are beautiful things.  When we start confusing physical beauty and sexiness with true beauty when we are young…we fail to see what is truly beautiful. It’s not in a sparkly bra that’s too small with a spray tan on a beach or a runway…it’s in watching Grace sing in my rear view mirror, her face covered in jelly and lip gloss.   They have plenty of time to be grown ups, to focus on sucking in their stomach’s and worrying about stretch marks after they have babies…let them be kids.  Let them be authentically beautiful. Show them what authentically beautiful is.

7.  Teach them the art of not being the best. About knowing what it’s like to fail. Because failing isn’t the worst thing in the world. Perfection is overrated, and pretty annoying.  And forgive them, and teach them how to forgive themselves and others.

8. For the sake of our daughters, don’t be a gossip or a mean girl.  For the sake of our daughters, be reliable and follow through, and show them how beautiful kindness can be. Exercise should be fun, sweating isn’t gross, and you shouldn’t be afraid of doing either.

9. Tell them the facts of life before they learn them at school, or by watching “Sex in the City.”

10. For the Sake of Our Daughters, tell them it’s ok to trust their instincts. That if someone makes them uncomfortable to tell you…that they don’t always have to be polite. Protect them, and teach them how to trust themselves.

11. If you’re raising a Boy, show him how to treat a girl.  My boys hold doors open. We aren’t raising them to pull hair, tease meanly.  They are respectful.  If a boy likes Grace but is mean to her, I’ll tell her,”Well how do your brothers treat you? How does Daddy treat you?”  And then I’ll have her point him out to Micah who will promptly kick his ass.

12. For the Sake of our Daughters, If you are like me, and have lost a tremendous amount of weight in the past, don’t ever say you don’t remember who you were back then.  Celebrate the change, but don’t over emphasize it, or make it seem like you are more worthy now.  That’s bullshit.  I was just as good of a Mom then, as I am now.  Yeah I was overweight, and yeah, I wasn’t as happy in my own skin, but I was worthy of Love.  My kids thought I was beautiful, my sisters thought I was beautiful and my husband loved me for who I was and I was worthy of his love.  Don’t ever let size determine your worthiness.  EVER.  For the sake of our daughters…show them they are worthy by loving yourself. I remember who I was, and she was me, I was worthy.

13. Teach them about God.  About how God is Love.  About how God loves us no matter what, and how great his love is.  How Comforting he is.  How we are never alone.

A few months ago Grace and I had a tea party.  We sat at her little table in her room.  She picked out my bright blue 80’s prom dress for me and a pink boa.  She work her glittery dress that is ripped on the bottom and two different shoes. We both wore pink lipstick. She told me I was beautiful, and I was absolutely enchanted with her as we drank lukewarm tea and giggled together.  And then I saw what she saw…The person who has been with her her entire life sat and was focused just on her, I was wearing a fancy dress she chose and there I sat with my Grace who is the essence of Beautiful.  Who believes she is beautiful for all of the right reasons.

I told her that and prayed with every ounce of my being that that moment would stay with her.  And then I realized something…

The first voice she heard from the moment she developed ears was the echo of mine.  The rhythmImage of the cadence of my voice.  When she was lifted out of me and they placed her next to my face she heard my voice.  My voice spoke softly to her as I brushed the wispy hairs from her forehead as she nursed, my voice said prayers over and over again to her as she cried, she heard me say her name over and over again.  The name I picked when I was in grade school in case I ever had a girl…Grace. I love the way her name sounds.  “Grace. Grace. Grace. You are precious. You are Loved. Grace Mary.” I am the voice that has soothed the scrapes and has been in her ear when she received stitches twice and had countless procedures when she started having kidney infections. I am the voice who has read to her most nights. The first voice she hears most mornings. I am the voice who has sung “Amazing Grace” to her ever since the day she was born. My voice carries a lot of weight, because she has heard it her whole life. And so I intend to use it for good. I intend to do everything I can to help her to hear my voice until all the other voices come in and tell her what beauty is. What being worthy is.  The voices that lie, and hurt.  The voices that take.

For the Sake of my Daughter I’m fighting back.  For the Sake of someone I love so dearly who has believed these lies, become a prisoner to them, I refuse to give up.  I refuse to stop fighting for their lives.

My Grace.

Is four.  She is full of life and spunk. She is beautiful.  She is worthy.  Always.