Photo Credit: courtesy of Christine Fenno
It’s not that I don't plan on telling you and your twin brother all this in person someday (when we can converse about more than stars twinkling like diamonds in the sky), but birthing two babies at once and guiding them into toddlerhood did a number on my brain, so I like to write things down before I forget!
My sunny, hilarious girl, this letter is about a legacy most daughters around the world grow up dealing with, including you. Before we became your moms, our moms taught us (directly and indirectly) how to think about our bodies. Whether we enter parenthood following the previous generation’s programming or trying to improve upon it, you inherit much of what we learned.
My mother, your grandmother, went to heaven before you were born, but of course I think of her frequently. (I can hear the future You imploring me to get to the point, so here it is.) My mom was 100 percent right about this: It's what's inside that matters. Assessing others by who they are, not what they look like, is how you develop healthy relationships and avoid unhealthy ones. Your heart, intelligence, grit, humor, kindness and resourcefulness are your invisible secret powers to wield in the world -- not to mention the key to fulfillment. This is absolutely vital to understand about yourself. Why? Because we live in a world that tries, for very cynical reasons, to confuse women and reduce them into believing their physical attributes matter most. You’ll walk stronger and calmer and happier through life if you have a knack for recognizing that kind of B.S.! Of course, as you grow from girl to woman, what clouds the issue is hearing comments -- compliments from a date, or criticism in a gym class -- letting you know someone has judged your appearance. Take it all in stride, honey, take it all in stride. You can only control what you do and say, and you want to be proud of those choices; let others think what they will.
What Other People Think is really at the core of what I believe most girls are worried about when they begin analyzing their weight or size, and comparing themselves to other women. I did it as a teenager, for years, and I certainly wish I had back all the time spent counting calories and reading about celebrities' workouts. And even my mom, who truly believed that people’s inner qualities are paramount, tried diets and perms and fretted too much from time to time about others' opinions of her. Unfortunately, mixed signals about body image are part of the legacy daughters can inherit from moms. But I want you to know, if I ever send you confusing messages about how important your appearance is in the scheme of things, you hereby have permission to call me on it!
And Gavin, dearest son with the stunning smile, if you haven’t realized it yet, this entire letter is actually for YOU, too. (How lucky I am to share this, and everything in my heart, with both of you!) And should you choose someday to be the kind of loving husband your dad is, then I know you’ll remember this advice: When your wife asks, "How do I look?" you simply say, "Beautiful." Just that. Always.
With love always,
Submit your own letter and picture to iVillagehealth@nbcuni.com and you could be featured in a Mother's Day slideshow.