She is watching me. Her smile goes all the way to her eyes and back again. And she is watching me. “You are lovely”, I say. “Yes, my mommy,” as she keeps smiling. I tell her this, often. Everyday. Because it’s a gift that she can carry with her for her whole life, long after I am gone and she has found herself outside of my shadow. It’s something that no one can ever take from her unless she gives it away willingly. She is lovely, and she knows it.
I was thirty years old before I remember anyone ever telling me that I am lovely. One of my closest friends was living in Australia for four years at the time. And skyped me to say it. “You are lovely,” she said. “People say it all the time here. Men are always telling their wives, and women tell other women. And they really believe it!” It was so simple, but it changed everything. I was standing in my kitchen, pregnant with my fourth child, cooking lunch while chatting via laptop. My chest ached with the beauty of her words, so long in coming, from so far away.
Months later, when I held my newest baby in my arms, it was repeated by my own voice. “You are lovely.” I said, even as the tears were starting. “You are lovely.” I repeated. It was the first thing anyone ever said to my daughter after she was born. It was her legacy. And it became my job to make sure she knew it. Not only that she is loved. Not only that she is worthy of love. But that she is lovely. She is two years old now. She has auburn hair that curls in perfect spirals to her shoulders and bounces as she walks. She has large Disney princess eyes that are impossibly green/gray/gold hazel. She has an amazing sense of humor. She is brilliant. If you google “strong-willed” her picture will probably pop up. I truly believe that she will grow up to be something and someone amazing. There is nothing she can’t do.
They say you are not supposed to tell little girls that they are pretty, that you should tell them they are smart. I say that they are wrong. Do you know a woman who doesn’t want to be considered pretty, at least by someone? I see what they’re saying (ish), but I disagree. So I tell her the truth. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brilliant. You have courage. You are amazing. You are loved. You are lovely.
I hope that when other voices try to compete with mine, that I will have said these things so frequently that they will play on repeat in her own voice. Not only for herself, but for others. Isn’t that how it always works anyway? The things we tell our children, become the tools they possess to build or tear down their own lives, and those around them.