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Once, when Hope insisted on wearing a super-duper, two-toned pink tutu to the park, I told her she couldn’t because the voluptuous tutu would get stuck in the spokes of her hot pink strider & she could fall. She fought me tooth & nail before finally throwing in the towel. After I made her change her clothes, she said, “But people won’t think I’m pretty.”

I told her that beauty is not in the clothes you wear and that it starts with this & I put my hand over my heart.  I want her to know that it is always about kindness and not about looks.

Hope makes comments about her clothes not being just right for others liking. She has mentioned thinking people might not like her because her hair isn’t right.

There are pressures all around us to look and be certain ways to be liked or approved of, from billboards, to television shows, to perfectly dressed kids, to hair smoothed over into symmetrical ponytails with beautiful glittery bows. & that is great for many, but it is not what makes up our household.

I admire those flawless make up wearing, well put together moms and their equally non-snotty nosed, clean finger-nailed, well-coordinated clothed kids.

Last week, we piled in the car to enjoy the beautiful weather. It occurred to me that I hadn’t looked in the mirror for a long time. I flipped the visor mirror down to peek at my face before heading to the park. A  makeup less face,  messy- bunned hair, & tired eyes stared back at me. I ran my fingers over my new blemish & I noticed the ones from years passed as they have healed & left little scars that I’m certain I can only see. They bug me.

I reached in my cup holder & searched for my cover up & powder brush. If I could cover up a little, I would feel better. It was no use, my makeup was inside & I couldn’t muster up the energy to hop out of the car to fetch my cover up. I was worn out from carrying the strider bikes & the helmets & the water bottles & the sanitizer & strapping both kids into their car sears. If I leave them unattended in the car for a moment, there is a slight chance they will start kicking each other. Hope likes to use her big black badass combat boots to kick her  brother’s bitty hand that he likes to rest on the cup holder of his car seat. I think I want to try that cardboard partition idea so they are forced to look forward & they can’t see each other. I keep meaning to stick James in the 3rd row, but I’m not sure it is the safest spot for him to be in.

I took one more glance at my face & decided to just keep on keepin’ on. I closed the visor containing the mirror. I felt ugly, in that moment. I have to keep moving because the focus is on my kids, today, & having fun at the park.

I started slowly backing up & I’m looking back to make sure there are no cars whipping around the corner. & I catch a glimpse of Hope staring at me, intently. “What is it, baby?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter, mom, it starts here.” She covered her heart with her hand.

She continued, “Mom, you do look different without makeup, not bad, just different.”

How old is this girl? Last time I checked, she was 4.5. She’s schooling me on self-image! I definitely could learn a thing or two about how to be kinder to myself.

This teeny tiny little porclein-skinned gal is teaching me to love me for me, flaws & all. I touched my face, again, & wished my blemish would go away, but more so,  I wished I could love myself just a little more & pick myself a part a little less. I’m much more beautiful, inside & out, than I give myself credit for.

& then, suddenly, I hear gentle singing in the backseat from Hope:

“You can change your hair or what you wear,
no matter what you do,
you’re still you.”

I asked where she heard that song. She said she saw it on Daniel Tiger. What a smart tiger he is & the fact that Hope connected the dots at that moment & sang that song made my eyes water. Was Hope trying to console me & remind me what matters most?

Just when I thought Hope was not listening, she was & is & always is. She’s watching me & learning how to love herself based on how I love myself, so I better get to absolutely adoring myself.  I am setting the standard for how she will look in the mirror & the messages she will tell herself. I want her to love her as much as I do.

My greatest fear is that Hope will think she falls short, somehow, in some way, as I have. I’m working on changing.

Once, I caught myself trying to get Hope to choose a matching outfit, a top & bottom combo that was just so cute for her school picture day. She looked at me and said, “Mom, I want to do my own thing. I have my own style & I don’t want to wear that.”

I stepped back and realized how amazing and profound that comment was. She is exercising her independence, her fashion sense, & is a creative girl who wants to define herself in her own way & wants to combine mismatching pieces of clothing to prove that she is unique. What an incredibly smart little fashionista she is.

She is small, but she is a whole being & she is so amazing. Thankful for my children & the invaluable lessons I learn from them every single day. I read in a book once that our children are ours & are gifted to us to help us to learn the lessons we never learned in our own childhoods.& here I thought I’d be teaching Hope. The truth is, she is teaching me how to be a better me.

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