I saw her like I had never seen anything before. I saw her with such clarity it frightened me. She was quiet. No noise. She had gray blue eyes. She had dark hair. She was Intense. I was in awe. She was in me and now beside me and I saw her and nothing else.
She was so fragile. Glass. She could break so easily. I feared dropping her. Hurting her. I wanted to protect her. Suddenly 25 was too young to have a child. I wasn’t old enough or mature enough. Suddenly I was weak. Full of doubt. Who was I to be trusted with this daughter with gray blue eyes? This Intense baby who stared. Broken had a daughter who was as physically fragile as Broken was mentally fragile.
I would lay her down on the floor and put my head next to her and weep tears of appreciation. I could acknowledge I created something wonderful, but could not comprehend it. My body formed her. This body that I blasted. This body that I bruised. This body I deemed unworthy. It created this Intense baby. It created a feminine life. She, the female who would turn to me for guidance. I buried broken. Shoved it down. Did not talk about it. Yet, always thought about. It is amazing how long broken can stay buried.
Intense is now in school. I love her. Her eyes have taken on the warm brown of her father’s. She is nothing like me. She has carved her way with attitude and might. She does not listen to “no”. She is smart, really smart. She is clever and savvy. I did not give these to her. God knew I would not be able to so He put them in her Himself. I am convinced of it.
I need do nothing to help her succeed. It is in her. She does not need me to comfort her. She will not tolerate dresses or bows. She will not brush her hair. I let it go. I am relieved. Intense has simple needs. With the exception of one, perfection. She needs perfection, craves it. I talk with her. We go on. Intense continues to coast.
Intense gets older and the need for perfection grows. It won’t go away. I ask for advice, but don’t take it too seriously.
Intense is in 3rd grade.
I wake up one night in a cold sweat. In less than two years she will be in 5th grade. 5th grade. That was when broken started for me. I stare into the dark. It has happened too fast. This passage of time. How do you make someone believe they are wonderfully imperfectly in less than two years? Does she know it is okay to be vulnerable? To fail?
How do you teach it when you don’t believe it to be part of your truth? This daughter of intensity. This daughter of intelligence and simplicity. This daughter from whom I try so hard to bury the broken so she won’t see. How do I make her unbreakable?
The realization takes my breath away, makes it hard to breath. I have to show her parts of my broken. By showing her I can be vulnerable and still live a successful life, she will learn to accept the parts of her that are “not perfect”.
Mamas of our girls, this is our responsibility.
In February, National Eating Disorder Month appeared on my calendar. I stare at those words. They are me and it is an odd feeling. I try to make it no big deal. However, “no big deals” don’t need to be buried. The news starts to fill with stories of girls who go without makeup to show Beauty Redefined. I talk to young girls about self-love. I start a lunch group….I lunch group where I don’t eat.
Moms respond with appreciation. I feel fake. I tell the girls love yourself, celebrate yourself. I yell to myself. I AM FAKE. Pretend perfection. Pretend not hungry. Raw. Broken. Guilty. I cry over my perceived failure. After the cry comes the voice. I ask myself what if……. What if I didn’t hide? Would I feel free? What if I made myself vulnerable? Would it open others to feel free? Would it help temper Intense’s need for perfection? Broken hissed, I would be too vulnerable. I falter.
Everywhere I turned the voices of girls spoke of self-doubt, never enough, a choir of hurt. Girls needing something else. Esther breathed in me, she reminded me of her biblical story. “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” I take a deep breath and challenge, for the first time, broken.
I ask them. “Would you go without makeup?” “Would you come and sit in public with your daughter at lunch…… without makeup?” They did. These moms did. Moms, vulnerable, not meeting each other’s eyes, came to eat with their daughters. Embarrassed but determined, they came. Something loosened inside of me. Emotions of warmth filled the broken. Those moms, those coworkers, went a day without makeup. Something fluttered inside.
That day, Intense sat with me, my mother, and my sister. All without makeup. We ate. I ate in front of moms and daughters. There were tears in Intense’s eyes. She found grace for herself in a room full of vulnerable mamas. In this one vulnerable moment a village of women took off their masks, embraced their true selves, and redefined beauty for one group of girls. We showed girls, authenticity gives way to perfect self-love.
Intense still has moments where she hunts for perfection, but the moment I started to learn to be vulnerable, was the moment she started to learn self-acceptance.