Most of the time, when it happens, I am completely taken by surprise.
It’s in the innocent way you wake up in the morning, your hair in tangles because you sleep just like I do, all wrapped up, your blankets pulled tight around your shoulders, your feet lying bare on your favorite Frozen sheets.
It’s in the way you look at me, not a trace of the makeup I know you will beg me to wear someday, and a little piece of my heart will break because you can’t see yourself the way I see you.
It’s when I’m struck, watching you run across the yard, giggling with your sister, your bodies so pure and joyful in motion, not a trace of the self-consciousness that will plague you for the rest of your life.
It hits me when I see you—a young girl startlingly replacing the baby who once surprised me with her appearance, the baby who changed everything, the baby who used to fit perfectly into the space next to my heart—and it never fails to take my breath away.
Because it’s in those moments, dear daughter—the moments you will never see, the realization you may never have, but I can see and will always see—that you are so, so beautiful.
I wonder when it will happen that you first start to consider what you look like to others. When you will tug and pull at your clothing, moving this way and that in a mirror that will never reflect back what I see in you.
I wonder when you will frown that first fateful frown of women everywhere, when you will become your own harshest critic, when you will roll your eyes in disdain when I doth dare protest that you look beautiful.
Because I mean it, dear daughter, I really do.
You may pluck and prune and tweeze and shape and diet and crunch and preen and maybe even glitterize (Do teens still use glitter? Excuse me if my age is showing), but to me, dear daughter, you will always be the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever gazed upon.
To me, you will always invoke wonder and awe, the same way I felt that day in the delivery room when they laid you, squalling and sprawling warm limbs upon my chest, and I gasped because it was you. You, whom I somehow recognized instantly, as if we were old chums who had merely been once separated and now reunited, picking up comfortably where we had once left off, instead of mother and daughter meeting for the first time.
The truth is, sometimes I just watch you. I realize that perhaps that might sound a little strange, but I make no apologies because I’m a mother and therefore just a tad clinically insane, because it’s impossible to live with your heart walking around outside of your body in a world that’s basically a ticking time bomb of hate and sorrow without losing your mind just a little bit.
I watch you because I’ve never stopped feeling like I am gasping in awe, a sharp intake of breath with the weight of you in my arms, my heart swelling and beating until I feel like it has left the confines of my chest and swallowed us both whole.
I watch you because everything about you, from that freckle on your leg, to the way you push your hair behind your ears, to the concentration when you color, mesmerizes me.
Sometimes, the intensity of how much I love you startles me, like I have to keep myself in check, stepping back into the shadows and reminding myself to keep it cool, don’t scare them like the crazy emotional mother you are. I cried at kindergarten graduation and I was embarrassed then, knowing I had a full 18 years and three more children to get through, and damn, this is going to be hard.
But I want to bottle up the beauty I see in you, in every careless way you jump and run and wrestle with your siblings, in every breath you take while you sleep, in every hug you give me without even thinking about it. I want to scoop your breathtaking beauty up, like piles of sand and hand it to you when you hit that age I know is coming, that age when you start to live not just for yourself and the pure joy of being you, but in comparison to others—to women, in the eyes of boys, against your own harsh standards.
I want to hoist up the world’s biggest mirror, a mirror that could magically show you what I see, and gesture wildly, begging you to look, just look at what I see in you.
To see the strength, the sensitivity, the intelligence, the kindness, every quirk and flaw and trait, woven together in a tapestry I could never create.
Because dear daughter, you are so beautiful.
Even though someday, I know you won’t believe it.
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