Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What I See When I Look At My Daughter (and What It Taught Me About How I See Myself)

"You look just like your mom."

"Wow! You two could be twins."

I don't know what it does to my sixteen year-old daughter to hear these remarks. We do look incredibly alike. Even Facebook with its highly advanced facial recognition technology is forever asking me if I want to tag myself in my daughter's pictures. I was sixteen once. I can imagine it's not particularly exciting to hear over and over and over again how much you look like a forty-one year old minivan-driving mother of four... no matter how hip, stylish, and super-cool your middle-aged mother happens to be (I'm totally kidding... I'm neither hip nor stylish. Though I totally think I'm super cool!)

I don't know what's going on in her head. I've asked her if it bothers her. She'll answer with a shrug of her shoulders and a non-committal "not really" which in teen speak probably means she's completely devastated. She might roll her eyes when someone tells her how much she looks like her mom. But she rolls her eyes at everything.

But I do know what it does to me.

I see my daughter. I see how her smile lights up her whole face, how her whole countenance glows when she's excited. I see the grace with which her body moves. I see the confidence she exudes in a crowd of her peers. I see her long dark lashes and her slender limbs. I see how she turns heads when she enters a room. She is stunning.

On the day she was born, the moment she was laid in my arms, she took my breath away.

She still does. Sometimes I look at her, and she is so dazzling that I can hardly believe I had even a small part in making her.

Sure I'm seeing her through the filter of my mom glasses, but I know that she is a beautiful young woman. Really breathtakingly beautiful.

And people think I look like her?

You see, I've never thought of myself as particularly attractive. Perhaps not hideous (although I hesitate to pass by mirrors first thing in the morning), but certainly not beautiful, certainly not gorgeous like my daughter.

What I see when I look in the mirror isn't what I see when I look at my daughter.

Like most women, I see all of my flaws, the cellulite and stretch marks, the way gravity has tugged on certain body parts in entirely unbecoming ways. I've always thought my nose was too large and my face too long, my chest too flat and my body too straight for anyone to classify me as lovely. Sometimes I still feel like the gangly awkward teenager I was in high school, the one who couldn't land a date with the opposite gender, the one who pretended she didn't care. Oh, how those high school insecurities follow us most of our lives. No one could possibly consider me alluring.

And yet, my daughter, who looks so much like me that even strangers comment on how strongly we resemble one another, is all of those things: attractive, beautiful, lovely... and yes, alluring (though not in a way you guys over eighteen should be noticing).

And she is more.

She is more than her appearance. Part of her beauty lies in her charm and her character, in her wit and her work ethic, in the way she looks at the world, full of hope and possibility.

Perhaps I am more... more than the blemishes I see in the mirror.

Perhaps I need to look at myself the same way I look at my daughter, with acceptance and unconditional love and patience... and awe. Perhaps I need to learn to look past my flaws, to love who I am (stretch marks and all). Perhaps I need to try harder to see the parts of myself that I so easily see in my daughter.

Because maybe I am more than just the sum of my flaws.

Maybe... just maybe... I am beautiful, too.


Robin said...

Oh Alice! There's no maybe here. Sincerely, you are gorgeous.

ajoneswebb said...

You are sweet to say so, and if I look at all like my daughter, you must be right. I wish I could more easily shed the insecurities. It's hard, but I'm trying.

menopausal mama said...

So beautifully written. I think many of us feel this way when we look at our daughters and then look at our own reflections in the mirror. I think both you and your daughter are beautiful!