Handsome #3 stood on the deck in nothing but his Underoos, his chubby little belly protruding and a big smile on his face.
“Look at him. He is so sweet and happy, letting it all hang out, not a care in the world. Can you imagine having that kind of self confidence?” I asked The Grillin’ Fool.
“What do you mean? I do!” He said with a smirk.
He was only half joking. If he didn’t think anyone would call the cops, he’d be on the deck in his underwear too. But instead, he parades around the house in his boxer briefs and a t-shirt with his bird legs dancing and doesn’t think twice. I, on the other hand, feel like I should have on Spanx under my nightgown just in case the door bell rings in the middle of the night.
My husband has no shame when it comes to his body. He’s a forty-something with four kids just trying to make it through the day like every other man supporting a family. He purchases zero self-care items and will use any bottle in the shower. He has never in his life looked at a nutrition label for sugar, fat or calorie information. As long as it doesn’t smell too bad he will wear it. He is so happy in his own skin, that nothing phases him.
I have birthed three sons who are exactly like him. Handsome #1 is thin and lanky. He loves to brush his hair over to the side and lather himself up in body wash. He doesn’t care one bit about what his clothes look like and will let me pick whatever I want from his closet. Handsome #2 is a bit more of a fashionista. He has a very particular opinion about what to put on,and will fight for a win. Even if that means a sweater vest and a pair of athletic shorts. He’ll wear that combination proudly. Handsome #3 has more confidence in his little finger than the rest of them combined. They are precious, perfect little boys and I want to be just like them.
For years, I worried about what would happen if God ever gave me a daughter. How could I possibly set a good example of body image and confidence if that is the one thing that I truly struggle with on a daily basis? For my first seven years as a mom, I parented my three boys knowing that their father would have a profound impact on the type of men they will become, but not worrying that my self image would affect them.
Then a surprise pregnancy brought the biggest surprise of my life, a daughter. I was thrilled beyond thrilled, but equally terrified that I would screw her up. I am the one who she will look to for strength and guidance. She will come to me for advice and help. I will be her example of self confidence and womanhood. I want to do it right.
Thankfully, she is only a few months old and I have some time to get my act together. Gone are the days of looking in the mirror and listing all of things that I hate about my body and face. The insecurities that have plagued me for years have to die before they begin to rear their ugly face in my daughter’s eyes. When I look at her, I feel inspired to be better. She is innocent and pure and beautiful. She is so beautiful. I never want her to doubt that. I do a lot wrong, don’t we all? But, there are a few things that I have picked up along the way that I hope that she might think are worthwhile nuggets of advice.
1. Laugh- Laugh Loudly and raucously even if you are the only one who gets the joke. Most importantly, laugh at yourself and know that everyone makes mistakes. Make others laugh and know that there is no better medicine. I would also be extremely proud if you were the third generation class clown at a certain all girls Catholic high school, but I will not put unfair pressure on you to be anything that you are not.
2. Fall Hopelessly in Love with a Boy Band- There is nothing better than covering your bedroom walls with pictures of the men that you are certain you will marry one day. I will happily download all of their music, buy crazy expensive tickets and sob with you when you see them in person for the first time. Trust me, you will want to keep your t-shirts, earrings and every overpriced accessory you can even when you think you are over that part of your life. I will gladly help you hoard them, and hide them from your father, so that when your favorite band goes on tour in 20 years, you can squeeze your postpartum body into that shirt and feel like a kid again.
3. Be a Friend- Not just to the cool kids or the popular people, be a friend to everyone who needs it. The shy little girl in the back of the room wants to play in the game too, invite her. Always be the nice girl, not the mean girl. Years from now people will remember the slightest bit of kindness that you have shown them. I’m sure at some point, you will feel the wrath of a mean girl, and it will hurt, but please do your best to be kind, to watch your words and to walk away with a smile on your face, it will make you stronger.
4 . Listen- This is a tough one, because you come from a long line of people who love to talk. But, trust me as much as you may want to speak, wait your turn and let others talk. It isn’t always about what you have to say, sometimes it is about what you don’t say and the time that you take to hear someone else that makes all the difference.
5. Pray-Every single day of your life take a moment to talk to God. Thank Him for what you have, who you are and where you are going. Ask for forgiveness and guidance. Your faith will guide you in life’s most difficult times. When all else fails, close your eyes and whisper, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee. This has gotten several generations of women in our family through tougher times than I could ever imagine.
6. Wear Red Lipstick- Wear bright lips, shabby overalls, plaid high heel shoes, or pink gloves. Your friends may tell you that it is too bright, or too bold, or too much, but if it makes you feel good, do it! If it makes you feel pretty, then wear it, use it and flaunt it often, no matter what it is. You will develop a signature style that screams your name, make sure to scream it back.
7. If You Can’t Do it in Front of Me, Don’t Do It- This isn’t a threat, and it isn’t meant to be scary, it is just something for you to always think about. I learned this from my own mother many, many years ago. And to this day, it still rings true. The older you get, the more time you will spend on your own and you will be faced with challenges and choices to do things that you may not feel right about. If you would be comfortable doing it in front of me, you are golden. If not, it’s probably not the best idea.
8. Be Happy With the Skin You Are In- You are not fat, not today, not tomorrow, not ever! You are gorgeous and perfect and exactly as you were meant to be. Don’t ever let anyone dim your sparkle, especially not someone who wants you to fit in to some kind of mold. They aren’t worth your time if they think a single freckle on your nose needs to change.
As I read over my words, it was very clear to me that this advice is just as important to my boys as my girl. All I want is to raise children who are kind, loving and respectful members of society. Each day I try to be a good mom and I realize that parenting will never end, it will never get easier, it will always change. And it is the greatest challenge I have ever accepted as it forces me to set an example and thoughtfully work to be a better person. To my children, I am so grateful and I love you.