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 sliming effect, but at 5’5” and 170 lbs, model-esque I was not.

“What do you think?” I asked my mom as she gazed lovingly at me.

“Oh honey. You look beautiful.”

It wasn’t until several years later that I realized my mother was a liar. Poring through old family photos, I was horrified to see that I was far from pretty. Staring back from the faded album was a gross, out-of-shape creature with long, singed hair from a recent battle with an iron and the ironing board, and white lipstick. 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 only 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 could see past the physicality of her children. For her it never matter if we had scars traversing the length of our legs, or a mouth full of missing teeth. And during those disgusting teen years when I sported monochromatic box dresses, white go-go boots, and thick black eye liner, she saw me only as precious.

But unlike my mother, I was determined to be honest with my children. Loving my kids was not just about hugs, kisses and smothering adoration. It meant telling them the cold hard truth when need be.

So, when my three daughters walked in the door with tight fitting, low riding jeans and exposed tummies, you can 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?”

And when my son grew out his thick, curly hair, looking more Little Orphan Annie than the only male in the family, I finally had to draw the line.

“Sweetie, you’re so fortunate to have luxurious hair. Let’s go wash it so it’s really shiny.”

Okay, 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 absolutely flawless, despite their questionable fashion sense.

As 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 their spiritual connection to the universe.

It’s been 10 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 a sweet life component known as unconditional love.