The other day, my daughter June was watching me put on makeup.
I normally wear very little makeup. Foundation/powder/cover-up has never agreed with my skin, so normally I wear just a little blush or bronzer and mascara. Watching her watch me, I had flashbacks to when I was younger and I would stare in awe as my mother "put on her face," as she would say. I loved how one tiny little pencil could make her eyes look so blue, and how that red crayon made her lips pucker out like rose petals.
Suddenly, June broke me out of my nostalgia and said, "Mommy, I need makeup."
"Oh, honey, you don't need makeup. You're so beautiful."
"No, I need makeup. Can I have some? Can you put some on me?"
With those 3 sentences, I realized that I am already teaching my daughter what it's like to be a woman, and it’s starting in a place I didn’t want her to focus—her physical appearance.
I come from a long line of beautiful women. Strong British jawlines, bright blue German eyes, high Czechoslovakian cheekbones and olive skin, almond shaped eyes, and feisty red hair. June was blessed with all this and more. She has Native American blood from her father and the deepest brown eyes, like dark chocolate. Her skin is flawless, her nose the sweetest little button, and she has perfect rosebud lips. She is going to grow into a beautiful young woman, and not just on the outside. Her full name is Juniper, which means resilience. She's also named after two of my grandmothers, strong names full of history and purpose. She is funny, intelligent, compassionate, and above all, she is fiercely loving.
So when she says, "Mommy, I need makeup," my natural inclination is to tell her all of the above, which of course she doesn't understand. She just wants to do what I'm doing. She thinks that, if Mommy does it, she should be doing it, too.
Where does that leave me? Do I stop wearing makeup? Do I hide in the bathroom or quickly apply it when she isn't looking? I don't think this is the answer.
I wear makeup because to me, it’s fun. I'm very comfortable in my physical appearance, and I want to accent the features I appreciate. I am at an age where I can look in the mirror and see all the things I like, versus all the things I don't like. Sure, I have days when I grumble at a pimple or two, or my hair just isn't doing what I want it to do, but for the most part, I'm confident in how I look.
So when she says, "Mommy, I need makeup," I take out my chapstick and put some on her lips.
Then we look in the mirror together. I say, "June, you're beautiful, just like Mommy, just the way you are." I say this to her often throughout the day. It's starting to become a mantra. I say it to her in the car, or before bedtime, or at the grocery store. I say it because I want her to believe it, but also because I want to believe it, too.
There are so many things in this world that will lead our daughters astray. Victoria's Secret will whisper to them that their breasts aren't buxom enough. Hollywood will shout to them that they aren't talented enough. Fashion shows will scream to them that they aren't skinny enough. Men will make them think twice about what they're wearing, thinking, eating, saying.
Why should they also have a conflicting message from their mothers?
Tell your daughter that mama is beautiful, even when you don't feel it at all. Tell your daughter that mama is strong, even when you feel hopeless. I believe that if I can confidently claim pride in my outward appearance and my character, my daughter will feel empowered to do the same.
I know, because I have a confident mother, who laid the foundation that made me into a confident woman.
Let me just tell you about my mother. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She taught me that everyone is a soul, worthy of love and recognition. She is compassion incarnate. She is intelligent, even if she didn't go to college. She has an infectious laugh. She is beautiful, inside and out, with or without makeup. I watched her when I was growing up, and I still watch her. I want Juniper to look at me with that kind of adoration, that kind of admiration, and think, 'I'm beautiful like Mommy.'
I know there will be times when the message of the world will drown out my message to her. I hope that those times are few and far between. I plan to write it on the walls of her room, in every card she ever receives, and on her heart. Every event I help her prepare for, I will reassure her that she is beautiful and capable of anything. Before every date, I will hug her and whisper, "You're beautiful, just like Mommy." On her wedding day, as I help her put on her dress, I hope she turns to me and whispers, "Mom, I'm beautiful, just like you."
And when she has her own daughter, my prayer is that the first thing she will say is, "You're so beautiful, just like Mommy."