06 Jan 2014

Making peace with the princess

We were in the middle of a snow ball fight outside Gedney hall my senior year of college when he said it.

Justin Myers said to me, “No fair if you turn sideways, ’cause then you’re an invisible target.”

While everyone else laughed it took me a while to figure out what he meant.

In high school Jason and his friends used to describe me as a “flea on toothpicks,” I was that skinny.

I dreamed of curves.

And while most girls would have loved to diet their way to my spaghetti-like physique I hated that I was all bony angles where I wanted curvacious womanhood.

What daughter doesn’t want to be beautiful?

And we can pretend that she doesn’t need to hear it. We can say that it’s enough to be smart or brave or funny.

But deep down is a hole that hungers to hear the word, Beauty.

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The night the boy on the motorcycle delivered flowers to my house and left his anonymous love letter, I brought it to my mother. She was cooking and I passed it to her across the kitchen counter and she glanced down at the note, kept stirring the spaghetti sauce, shrugged and answered out of the deep well of her own insecurities,

“Oh my darling, I’m sure it’s just your friends playing a joke on you.”

He kept bringing me flowers and I stopped telling her about it.

Eighteen years later I gave birth to a daughter. A terrifying bundle of pink and I’m the girl with two brothers and a dead mother and I don’t know how to dress a girl.

There are books and blog posts and articles that I comb through in the dark hours. And they say that girls need to hear that they are brave and strong and capable. That their bodies are useful more than they are beautiful.

I don’t doubt that’s true.

But my baby is fast asleep next door wrapped around with the pink and white tutu she wouldn’t take off before bed.

And I imagine there’s something to that too.

As we’re packing up our suitcases for our flight to South Africa and Christmas with the family we haven’t seen in two years I throw in six princess dresses at the last minute. They are soft hand-me-downs and fold up so small into the nooks and crannies of space we’ve got left over and it’s an impulse to bring a blue Cinderella and yellow Belle and pink Barbie home with me.

I’ve just got this feeling there are some princesses who need their dresses waiting for us.

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The thing about beauty, is that it’s always there.

It just looks different for each of us.

But it’s always there waiting to be called out.

A grown up friend writes me that, “I want to be told that I’m beautiful too.”

Behind our glasses and insecurities, behind our unruly bangs and track training records, behind our accomplishments and husbands and kids, there is always the little girl who wants to be told she’s beautiful.

I know this because I see her in the mirror.

And one afternoon in South Africa we have a princess party for our daughters. And I see in each of their wide eyes and longing looks at the mirror that beauty loves to be called out, to be celebrated and cherished and recognized by our mothers.

Our daughters will see themselves as beautiful in our eyes first. If we let them.

And once they’ve seen themselves as beautiful in the eyes of their mother, maybe they’ll be braver dancing through the minefields of what the movies and magazines scream is desirable.

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On a whim the moms dress up too.

The only princess dresses that fit us are the ones from our weddings. I haven’t worn mine in 14 years and it won’t zip up all the way in back.

But I step into it anyway and see my own wild hopes echoed in five pairs of eyes.

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Small arms wrap tightly around my neck and the promise that the future holds love stories for each of us.

Daughters lost and found, abandoned, broken and adopted.

Daughters beloved.

Daughters beautiful.

And the word might not always fit us. It might feel like it’s too tight or sticking in back like my dress that gaped open with a disgruntled zipper. But it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that I’d outgrown that dress, because you can’t ever outgrow the beauty of being loved.

And when my two year old daughter wrapped herself around with my veil I saw my past, present and future all cupped in that singular moment in the hands of the God who declares us all beautiful.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

That means you and me and our hurts and unhappy endings.

Everything is beautiful when reflected in the eyes of the God who names us so.

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Beauty like so much grace, so much hope, so many promises,

in the eye of the faithful, heavenly beholder.

 

 

Comments

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  1. 1
    Daniel Farrow says:

    I just wanted to say to you Lisa-Jo that sometimes us men need to be reminded of what you have said in this post so we can know how to reflect our heavenly Father and honorably, without crossing boundaries, call out the beauty of our Sisters-in-Christ in a way that shows the love of our common Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. 2

    That’s beautiful, Lisa-Jo! I have a girl now, after 4 boys, and having never been a girly girl, I’m terrified some days. But it’s also amazing to see how God is working on me through the nurturing of her, too. Blessings to you and your Princess (and your Prince Charmings too!)

  3. 3

    The tears are flowing…

  4. 4

    Keep speaking these words. We all need to hear them and pass them on to our daughters and granddaughters. Beauty was not a word bandied about in the house I grew up in; the house called Chaos. As a result I equated beauty with love- if i was pretty someone would love me. It wasn’t until years later- when my own beautiful daughter came along that I somehow knew to tell her that she was beautiful. I look at her and I see beauty personified and find that I’m profoundly grateful and amazed that she is part of me. As she grew up she chose the word “awesome” for herself- as if I could have ever done that! Her beauty shines through her eyes and she is loved; as for myself- somewhere deep down I’ve begun to see that love brings out the beauty in every woman and every woman yearns for beauty.

  5. 5

    I love so much about this post. I think little girls (and older and/or grown-up ones) need to be told their beautiful at any time and every time. I know that when I’ve felt least beautiful for some reason or another, and someone I tells me that I am beautiful? That means more than anything.

  6. 6

    Every morning, no matter what I look like, my three year old son tells me “your beautiful”. I never get tired of hearing it. It is almost like it is healing something inside of me. My husband tells me it too, but there is something about the way my son says it that is so powerful to me.

  7. 7

    Oh I loved every word of this. You know, I fought the princess thing with my daughter for a couple of years -the vapid superficial princess-y of modern day America. But now we’ve embraced the princess aspect for what you describe – for feeling pretty and lovely and fancy. And knowing that beauty is more than skin deep but little girls in dresses is something to love and enjoy – in fact, we just had our cousins over for a princess tea party and even survived using our china :) (www.gindivincent.com/2014/the-point-of-re-entry/ )

  8. 8

    Thank you for this. I hadn’t really thought how much my words of her beauty will mean to her. I know she really needs to hear it from her Daddy who she seeks out for affirmations of her beauty, but I hadn’t really really thought about how much it needs to come from me too.

  9. 9

    Yes, Children believe what you tell them about themselves. The way we sparkle when they come in the room, the joy they hear when we answer the phone knowing who is on the other end. I love this piece! I love the pictures! Sigh….I love having a daugther!

  10. 10

    Yes! When we are small and scrawny, or old(er) and plump, we still need to be told we are beautiful. Whether we rely on the worlds’ eyes and measures, or the maturity of God-in-us realities, we want to know He is making us beautiful…in His time…

  11. 11

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! I think it is so sad that the princess message is losing popularity. Yes, I understand that parents want their daughters not to focus on the superficial. We want our daughters to grow into strong, confident, smart, capable women, but it is so much easier to do that when our deepest longing for beauty and love is fulfilled.

  12. 12

    THANK YOU! I grew up with Barbie and Cinderella and all these “weak-need-a-man” girly things (so the current trend says). I read articles that say, “don’t compliment a little girl on her looks, as her about her favorite book”. Can’t I DO BOTH? I don’t wear stilettos, bleach my hair, diet till I vomit, or wring my hands till a man comes to save me, yet I grew up with all these girl things. Could it be, just maybe, that it’s OK to be pretty AND smart? That we can teach our daughters AND sons about grace and charm and intelligence at the same time? That we can tell them that when you dress well and do your hair and YOU FEEL GOOD that you exude that confidence? You don’t get it from the clothes, the hair, the jewelry…you dress on the outside the way you feel on the inside. If beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, I am sorry, folks…my kids have all of you beat hands down. And I am sure you feel yours have mind beat. And that is how it should be.

  13. 13
    Kristen Rodriguez says:

    Oh Lisa-jo, you have such a way with words that get right to the heart of things. My parents generation did not tell their children that they were beautiful, for fear of raising vain children. The pressure of being beautiful is high in southern California. So I grew up with low self esteem and thinking surely I was an ugly duckling. It has taken me many years into adulthood to realize the ways God had made me beautiful. And I’m so thankful for an amazing husband who tells me often and little boys who hear that being modeled. And by the way, Lisa-Jo, I always wanted to look as beautiful as you always did in college. A glamorous, raven-haired beauty. :)

  14. 14

    Thank you for this, Lisa Jo! I read an article the other day from a mom on Blogher about Cinderella not being invited to her daughter’s birthday party, and I’ve been wrestling with it. I have a three year old daughter, and I tell her she is beautiful all the time. I look her straight in the eyes and tell her so she will feel it in her heart, whether she is all dressed up or still in her messy pajamas. I also tell her when she has worked hard, when she is creative, when she makes a beautiful picture, when she is kind or generous. I pray that she will know deep down in the roots of her being how much she is loved, by both her Heavenly Father and by her parents. I want her to be confident and know her worth, so that when she is ten and eleven and twelve, she won’t be intimidated by other girls, so she won’t lose her sense of self, and hopefully, in the midst of all of that, she’ll be able to talk to me.

  15. 15

    LOVED this post so much!! I grew up as a tomboy because I wanted to be adventurous and brave and strong. My parents told me I was beautiful but looking back I think there were some deep issues that caused me doubt that. Anyway. Connecting with the inner princess and feminine beauty has been something God has been working in my heart for a long time. It’s nice to know that it’s okay to be beautiful and need to feel beautiful. Thankfully my heavenly Father gave me a man whose very eyes and look sings that I’m beautiful to him – even in the midst of the one shaved, one un-shaved leg haphazard looks of early motherhood. :)
    Thank you for your beautiful words!

  16. 16

    Dear Lisa-Jo, I have a little princess and when I found out I was pregnant with her it terrified me. I am an introverted tomboy who grew up in a house with an extrovert mom who always looks elegant and won’t go anywhere without her makeup. Needless to say this brought a fair amount of conflict between us. I am still an introvert tomboy who is growing and learning with my daughter the true meaning of beauty. It does look different for each of us. My wild, headstrong little redhead is so different from me and often I struggle to find the right words to tell her she is beautiful. But we are learning together. thanks for your post.

  17. 17

    Lisa-Jo,
    This is beautiful and the photos made my heart catch right in my throat. Beauty, grace, abundance all wrapped up in your sheer veil.

  18. 18
    Amanda Jaetzold says:

    I absolutely love reading your blogs. I hope u know what a gift you are to so many mommas like me!
    Truly loved this particular one, thank you for sharing your life journeys with us and continuing to inspire so many!

  19. 19

    YES!!! I am so sorry you have that hurtful moment as a part of your history and yet, how SWEET of our God to use it for His glory and the encouragement of his beautiful daughters! Thank you for being faithful to write the words he lays on your heart. You are beautiful!!!!

  20. 20
    Debi Schuhow says:

    I never thought God values feminity, but He does. I found that out.
    From a woman who always wanted to be a man. Now, I am glad God made me a woman. My wonderful husband was part of that healing.

  21. 21

    LIsa Jo, that is so beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes!

  22. 22

    When my husband tells me I’m beautiful, really tells me, I have to fight back tears every time. It touches something so deep & raw inside me that I can’t help it. We have 3 sweet daughters & they are so incredibly beautiful to me that I find myself telling them often. I don’t think it can ever be said enough.

  23. 23

    Lisa Jo,
    This…THIS right here has become my heart in ministry for women with hurts and scars from past mistakes and for young teenage girls struggling to live up to the images the world puts in front of them on a daily basis. We need to redefine beauty so that it is what God always meant it to be…for our daughters and granddaughters, and for our sisters and friends. God has been tapping on my heart, letting me know that the face of my ministry has waned into a stale faded portrait of what He intended. I’ve been struggling with this for a while and it has even left me wordless. But He’s been whispering truth and hope to me in so many different little ways and especially through other writers. Thank you for sharing your heart and re-inspiring me to live out GOD’s dream for my ministry and writing. I needed this today.

  24. 24

    I was the girl without a mother, too, who had no idea what to say to a girl. I was always told I was smart, but I was never pretty. So I grew up knowing I was smart and assuming I was ugly, since no one told me otherwise. I read a story on body image the other day, and the guy “expert” said you shouldn’t mention your child’s body to him or her, ever, if you want him or her to have a healthy body image. There’s some fault in that logic. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful and smart and funny. I tell my son the same things. And they’re true—I’m not puffing them up in any way. I want them to know that I see all that they are—not just the most “acceptable” things or the most “useful” things. I love that my baby girl looks in the mirror after she gets dressed and says, “Pretty!” and I worry there will be a day when she doesn’t say that anymore. But I will do my best—for all her days—to make sure she knows she is beautiful, inside and out.

  25. 25

    My oh my. The truth of it. God said to me, He said “Grace, others may see you as strong, and that you are, but I see you as Beautiful.” And I guess I wasn’t listening too well, because a total stranger came up to me as I wept and they said “Grace, God says you are beautiful. Really, really beautiful” and my did I weep then. My Dad, he tells me I’m beautiful, and I’m a grumpy ol’ teenager – so I moan and groan, but really it makes my heart sing. To be told in the deepest of confidences that I am beautiful. Never let any daughter of the King live without knowing the truth of how she was made.

  26. 26
    AineMistig says:

    THANK. YOU.

    That is all.

  27. 27

    What a beautiful, touching piece of writing. I was just thinking about beauty today in the car with my kids. I think what I loved most about getting married (other than Mr. Sexy that is) was the dress and the veil and the princess-like treatment and princessy feelings. My husband does an amazing job of helping me feel beautiful. Thanks for such a beautiful post!

  28. 28

    Heck, yeah. Princess dresses for the win! Just brilliantly done, dear girl. We DO need to feel beautiful, to know that we are, no matter our shape/size/age/skin color/insecurities. No.Matter.What. And indeed, we are beautiful. And that princess of yours? Oh, yeah, I see a gorgeous ole QUEEN burgeoning there. :>)

  29. 29
    Lizzie D. says:

    It’s so funny, I was just thinking about this today. I was walking one of my preschool students back to her mother after a speech therapy session, and she was rocking her sparkly sneakers and fabulous polka dot jacket and glittery t-shirt. There wasn’t a glimmer of self-consciousness in that sweet little girl.

    When do we lose that? Who taught us to hate our bodies? Little girls love to be told they’re beautiful… because they are still innocent enough to truly believe it. Why do we ever stop believing it?

    My mother thought she was ugly. She wasn’t. She was beautiful. She died unexpectedly 12 years ago, and I have no pictures of her. She would never take them. So now, I make it a point to take them, especially with my kids. I try to smile and accept the person I am. The person who looks an awful like a certain mother…

    Right now I have 2 (spectacular, amazing) sons. But if someday I am blessed with a daughter, I know this is a battle I will have to fight. I will have to see myself as beautiful first. It won’t be enough to just tell her that she is beautiful… I will have to live it.

    And for the record, I still like sparkly sneakers and fabulous polka-dot coats. :)

  30. 30

    I remember a popular post going around not long ago by a woman who said we should never comment on our the appearance of our daughter’s bodies. It talked about how we should point out how strong they are, how they work, how wonderful they are, but to not ever comment on appearances, not even to mention how beautiful they are. I disagree with that. As a mother of one daughter and three sons, my little girl NEEDS me to tell her she’s beautiful. She NEEDS to know that she is lovely physically as well as spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Like most girls, she appreciates beauty and wants to feel that she’s as valued as a princess. So, thank you for this post, Lisa Jo. There is nothing wrong with teaching your daughter that she is beautiful all over. . . because we know as woman how desperately we want to hear and feel it too. Especially from those we love and trust most in life.

Trackbacks

  1. […] As a mama of two girls::: Making Peace With the Princess […]

  2. […] There are books and blog posts and articles that I comb through in the dark hours. And they say that girls need to hear that they are brave and strong and capable. That their bodies are useful more than they are beautiful. […]

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