Looking more like an overstuffed mushroom than a petite 17-year-old girl, blubber oozed over the sides of my Montgomery Ward bell bottom jeans. This new style of the 1960’s was supposed to have a slimming effect, but at 5’5” and 170 lbs, modelesque I was not.
“What do you think?” I asked my mom as she gazed lovingly at me.
“Oh, honey. You look beautiful.”
Several years later, I realized my mother was a liar.
Pouring through old family photos, I was horrified to see that during those teenage years, I was far from pretty. Staring back from our faded photo album was a gross, out-of-shape creature with long, singed hair (from countless battles with an iron and the ironing board) topped off with white lipstick meticulously covering thin lips. Was she nuts, or just blind?
“Mom, look at these pictures,” I said annoyed. “How could you tell me I was beautiful back then? I was a mess.”
Peeking over my shoulder to breathe in the image of her daughter, she softly caressed my shoulders with her gentle hands, kissed my head, and said, “I guess I never noticed. I’ve always loved you just the way you are.”
“Well, perhaps you should have loved me a little less and been a little more honest,” I hissed. “Then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so porky.”
But as time danced around the sun, and I too became a mother, I grew to understand how she simply saw past the physicality of her children. For her, it never mattered if we had scars traversing the length of our legs, ratty hair or a mouth full of missing teeth. And during the self-exploration of my adolescent years, when I sported monochromatic box dresses, white go-go boots, and thick black eye liner, she still saw me only as precious.
In an attempt to prevent history from repeating itself, I became determined to be uber-honest with my children. Loving my kids was not just about hugs, kisses and smothering adoration. It meant telling them the cold, hard truth.
So, when my three daughters walked in the door with tight fitting, low-riding jeans, and exposed tummies, you bet I had something to say.
“Oh, girls, you have such gorgeous bodies! Aren’t you lucky you can get away with wearing something so revealing?” I began, thinking how different they looked at 16 than I did. And of course, I had to add my motherly advice. “Maybe a cute sweater would look good, so you’re not quite so unprotected.”
And when my son grew out his thick, curly hair, looking more like Little Orphan Annie than the only male in the family, I had to draw the line.
“Sweetie, you’re so fortunate to have such luxurious hair. Let’s go wash it so it’s shiny.”
Alright, I admit it. I was a weenie when it came to criticizing them too. How could I ever say anything negative to the most incredible creatures God ever sent to this earth? In my eyes, they were flawless, despite their questionable fashion sense.
When a baby enters a parent’s life, the mother and father are immediately blessed with an incredible instrument known as unconditional love. Regardless of the child’s actions, thoughts, opinions, or wardrobe, this love helps the parent fly past the visual straight to what’s important – their child’s heart and spiritual connection to the universe.
It’s been seven years since my mom left this earth, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. I want to hear her laughter, smell her perfume, and listen to her lies all over again. But, I know we’ll be forever tethered to each other’s souls, bonded for eternity, and all because of the sweet life experience is known as my mom’s love for me, no matter what I looked like.
If you’re a parent, you most likely know that cringing feeling when you see your baby wear something unflattering or act in a questionable manner. And, yet, in the end, you love them anyway. Care to share a story?