I’ve Failed

No not with the diet (I’ll update on that later) but in bringing up my daughter… I think, maybe, I don’t know.

“You’re so beautiful” I said to her as I stroked her face on my lap top screen, stopping in her tracks from telling me over Skype about something wonderful she’d done that day. I shouldn’t interrupt, I learned that from Bill Cosby years ago, before I had kids, he said you should let your kids speak without interruption for at least 5 minutes at a time if you want them to carry on speaking to you as they grow up… it stuck with me and I think it works but sometimes it’s not possible. You have to let them keep on talking, even if they stop talking you just sit and look at them and don’t speak and it’s amazing, they say something else and talk some more without prompt. Your job is to just nod and insert appropriate facial expressions. He said the most important time to do this is right after they come home from school.

She’d probably only been speaking for 2 minutes but I couldn’t help myself, as she lie there all snuggled up in bed, face freshly cleansed and moisturised, bright eyes, perfectly shaped eye brows, pink cheeks, shiny nose, white teeth, raven hair tied back exposing her beautiful bone structure, I couldn’t help myself. I had to say it, because she is.

“Oh mum” she said “You’re the only person in the world who actually thinks that, but it’s OK you have to think that, you’re my mum so it’s OK.”

I laughed “You don’t believe that do you?” I asked her.

“You are mum, but it doesn’t matter. Shall I carry on with what I was telling you?” she smiled.

“No, hang on, you are joking aren’t you?” I asked again.

“No, mum, you are the only person besides drunken idiots who has ever told me I’m beautiful or pretty and I know I’m not anyway so it doesn’t matter, I’m cool, I don’t need to be beautiful to feel worthy of life, it’s OK.” she smiled.

My heart broke, she meant it, she wasn’t joking. I know other people think she’s beautiful because they tell me. Someone else must have told her, surely. Maybe she just doesn’t remember. But after I’d overcome that sad feeling, that she couldn’t recall anyone ever telling her she is beautiful the real horror of what she said sunk in… she doesn’t think she’s beautiful. She doesn’t think she’s beautiful because no body validates that by telling her and her perception of herself is skewed as a result. Or maybe she is just too confident to even need to perceive herself as beautiful.

Does it matter what she thinks of herself? I asked myself this time and again, she seemed happy to feel that she’s not beautiful, she seems to think it’s not important to her life. Is this my problem? Is beautiful something I never felt and so it has such a big importance to me and really not of importance to her because everything else is right in her life? Should I want her to feel beautiful? Does she need to feel beautiful? All of this was coursing through my mind and I was missing out on what she was telling me about a rafting trip she’d been on.

“Does being beautiful matter to you?” I asked, interrupting her again.

“Muuuuuum, wake up, we’ve moved on. No, it doesn’t. I’d rather they thought I was honest, reliable, trustworthy and that I like to be listened to when I’m talking about something I did today.” she smiled and then made one of those chastising faces that I’ve only seen mothers make before.

“OK” I said “Carry on, I’m sorry”.

“No, because it’s not OK is it? I’ve made you sad, I can see. So please listen to me, I’m not bothered mum, I don’t need to feel beautiful and I think it’s sweet that you think I’m beautiful and thank you for telling me so my whole life. Now promise me you’ll forget this and not let it upset you, I don’t need validation, you made me better than that.” sitting up now, she tilted her head on the side and smiled. I smiled back. “Mum?.. ”

“Yes”

“We’re cool right?”

“Yes”

“Good, so I  was in this raft with a girl called…”

I listened to the rest of her story and when we finished our Skype (by the way, thank the Lord for Skype, how I would cope without seeing that pretty little thing as often as I do I do not now) she told me she loved me and we did the camera kisses and she said “I love you mum, I love telling you about my adventures, don’t let me hear that you were upset about earlier or I’ll put you on a Skype ban for a week”.

I had a word with Nick about it and he said “kids are not like us Mich, different things matter to them, different things matter to young girls nowadays, my eldest is the same, she exactly the same, she’s confident without needing validation of how she appears physically, don’t try to think of her thinking the way you would have thought when you were 21, don’t imagine that what mattered to you matters so much to her, it’s totally different, girls are different, she’s happy and one day she will know she’s beautiful, right now it’s just not of importance to her.”

Should I listen to him? Hahahahaha, made myself laugh asking the blogging world that, he would be mighty impressed by that.

I’m wondering if he’s right in a way. I’m also wondering if she just doesn’t hear people say it to her because it is of no importance to her, or she’s never met anyone who she wanted to hear it from. I worry that I’ve made her feel ugly, but does not needing to feel beautiful mean the same thing as feeling ugly? I don’t think she feels ugly, no thinking of it, definitely she doesn’t feel ugly, she always says that ‘ugly is inside people’ and she knows she is a good person.

Rather than being a failure I think I’m maybe neurotic… I just don’t want her to feel ugly like I have all my life and it’s making me panic I think… wise blogging people put me straight, you know I like it when I’m told straight that I’m a loon and I value your opinions so much 😀 Oh and discussion point, do you think women have changed so much that different things matter to them about how they are perceived now to say in the 80’s when I was a teen/early twenties or have women just always wanted the same things?

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8 thoughts on “I’ve Failed”

  1. I think there are a few things in play here. First, different people have different definitions of beauty. And it sounds to me like you daughter holds inner beauty in much higher esteem then outer beauty, which you should be thankful for because outer beauty fades. Second, it sounds like she has a healthy attitude about it anyway. It sounds like from your story that you two have a good relationship and I think she would tell you honestly if she did feel ugly.

    I also do think that attitudes have changed. I am 24 and my options are limitless. In the 80’s there was still lingering ideology for women of: get married, pop out babies and rely on a man for the rest of your life. I know this was changing, BUT the indoctrination of the mind does not change as quickly for a whole society as it does for individuals. Therefore, women placed more value in beauty because that is how you get a husband. Now, I could stay single for my whole life, take care of myself and adopt. We have options and that gives us the power. The power to choose inner or outer beauty or both or neither.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow Thank you so much for those comments. This is why I love blogging where else do I get such an honest objective opinion from a 24 year old who has made me see that it’s so true the world has changed so much. You are so right it was still very much our objective for so many of us on the cusp I guess of real changes in attitude regarding relationships and what they meant for us and said about us. It was only through disaster really that I became a career woman and I was a real outsider in my home community among my peers for that. In London it wasn’t the same but still being married was something we aspired to at a young age.

      I guess the saying “things were different in your day but it’s not your day anymore” is something I have to embrace more and just relax and accept that she is of a different time and place and listen to what she says more than to what I hear. Its hard being a mum sometimes we have this thing called crazy overwhelming love getting in our way so an opinion from outside of the picture is really valuable. Thank you sincerely.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh and Nick also pointed out that when he met me in the 80s he thought I was beautiful but never told me because he assumed everyone did. Dumbass we might have been together for 25 years now if he had said it back then. But then we wouldn’t each have our wonderful children.

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  2. sashamcgee made some very good points. I do think that ideals of beauty and just ideals, in general, vary from person to person and from culture to culture. I am 21-years-old (just shy of 22, actually, but 21, for now), and I wish I was a bit more like your daughter, to be honest. I think it’s incredible that she holds inner beauty in such high regards. I know that inner beauty is very, very important–maybe even more so than outer beauty–but, unlike your daughter, I still very much care about what other people think of my outer beauty.

    I live in America, and that might be a very important difference. The ideals of beauty here are out of this world. Every single picture in every one of our magazines is photoshopped. Ads for dieting programs and diet pills and skin cream and wrinkle cream and anti-aging cream and whatever and whatnot is plastered everywhere you go. Literally every other commercial on TV is about that crap. In American society, beauty standards, in general, are based more on what’s on the outside than about what’s on the inside, which is a real shame.

    I am also a young lady who struggles with weight, which has been a struggle for me ALL MY LIFE. I’ve never been skinny; I’ve never been the ideal of beauty. So, I do find myself craving that kind of praise from people. I am on a weight loss journey, and I notice now that when people compliment me I get a little overly excited about it. Throughout my life, my dad, whom I’m very, very close to, has made sure to constantly tell me I’m beautiful, but because of my weight, it’s not something I can see in myself or feel for myself. I don’t ever recall anyone else telling me I’m beautiful, but I do really wish someone would.

    In fact, one of the reasons why I started this journey, sadly, is because someone said to me, “you’d be so pretty if you lost a little weight.” And that thought has always been bouncing around in my own head, too, so I took the plunge and started losing weight.

    Maybe I’ll eventually come to be more like your daughter–I’d really like to be more like that. Until then, it would be nice for someone to see me and actually acknowledge that I sometimes have beautiful moments, though! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for these thoughts. I must say that much of what you describe I can personally relate to and I wonder if that is maybe why my daughter thinks the way she does because I have suffered from that emphasis on external beauty and so consciously or otherwise made her focus more on the value of internal beauty. I do think the over excitement at being complimented does kind of fall into the ‘grateful fat chick’ philosophy whereby we can head into really unhealthy relationships and one off acts due to that over excitement at some positive attention. I know I have done that in the past and sometimes I see friends even now who fall crazy in love with someone who is not right for them because they say the right things or because they are the only guy who shows an interest. That’s quite sad especially when it all falls down. I’ve also seen people debilitated and abused due to dependence on such relationships. All of this is making me feel like I did something right in making beauty and self worth unconnected in her.

      I am sure other people find you beautiful look at my comment above my partner didn’t tell me when we were dating years ago because he thought it was obvious. I think that is another thing with this, that people are guarded and apprehensive and very cautious with compliments especially young guys. I know with my son when I see girls in his group of friends I’ll say “she’s a pretty girl isn’t she” and he says “I don’t notice mum they’re my friends”. That kind of brings us back to shifting social behaviour again where boys and girls more commonly now form strong meaningful friendships. In my youth such were definitely ‘hiding something’.

      I think an emphasis on skinny, and by that I mean unnaturally thin, you have to wonder how some of these girls would cope with a fortnight of illness God forbid it should befall them, is also prevalent here in the UK. Someone’s size seems to blind people to their facial features which is where I look for beauty as well as within. Without sounding bitchy, I see pictures of people who are ‘beautiful’ at times and just can’t see it and know that the same face on a bigger body would definitely not be seen as beautiful.

      I hope you find yourself on your weight loss journey and I hope that you are able to feel beautiful, I know how liberating it is and I’ve waited 47 years to see mine and now it’s on the way out…but I’m still making the most of it. We are all beautiful we really are. There is beauty in everyone we’re amazing creations. Maybe it’s good that my daughter doesn’t need that validating as she says.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if girls feel differently about things now or not, but as someone said, I live in the U.S. and I see such distorted views of beauty in our advertising and in our ideals. I think culture and upbringing have everything to do with how our girls view themselves. My daughter is 12, and I see her fret over not being pretty enough or thin enough. It breaks my heart, as she is a beautiful, healthy girl. But every television commercial and magazine ad reinforces the ideal of beauty only coming in certain shapes and sizes. I hope one day my daughter is as confident as yours and sees that beauty really is all about the inside, and being strong enough to value her wonderful character over the size of her waist or the look of her face.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I think we are subject to that too in the UK but there are a certain amount of ‘real’ people who are celebrated too and seen as beautiful which can balance things out a little but even so there are plenty of pressures.

      I am seeing now that it’s not such a bad thing the way she thinks, I’m starting to feel that it’s a good thing but still I can’t help but wish someone would tell her she’s beautiful… then again like I’ve said, I don’t thinks he hears it as its not important to her. I’m pretty sure other people have said it to her if not directly in a roundabout way.

      My son has two friends now who at 14 both have diagnosed anorexia and also a boy in his school year has it too. I know there are other issues at play when it comes to extremities of control with food but he said they are all very much concerned with feeling pretty and being perceived as beautiful.

      The media has a lot to answer for.

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