{PHFR} – Beautiful Girls in a Not-Always-Beautiful World

~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life, as inspired by the women at Like Mother, Like Daughter~

Confession: As you may notice by the outfits, most of these moments were captured on the same day. The past week has been a bit crazy: Jonathan was gone for a quick weekend work trip, and Abby had a cold on Saturday and a stomach bug Sunday morning. She kindly shared the stomach bug with Katie (who was sick in the middle of the night on Monday) and me (who spent all of Tuesday barely moving from the couch). I’m hoping we’ve now got all of our flu season nonsense out of the way, but, in the meantime, I’m playing a bit of catch-up on life (hence why this post is coming a day late).

{Pretty}

Rain! We got our first good soaking last night, and that is a beautiful thing, indeed. When we went out for a walk yesterday morning, the clouds gathered above, casting a dull light over everything – a dull light that, by purely photographic standards was not, precisely, “pretty,” but that was gorgeous in what it portended.

(Also pretty: bright pink running shoes on my lovely girl. I found them this past week, after being on the lookout for some good play shoes for Katie for awhile – side note: why are 99% of the options for little girl shoes so ridiculously impractical? – and she loves them. She’s worn them every opportunity since, being sure to point them out to whomever she meets. “When we see people on the path, Mama, they say, ‘Oh, what good running shoes you have!'” she told me before we set out. We didn’t meet anyone, but Katie did tell me, as she trotted down our hill, “You pick out good, good running shoes for me, Mama! They not slip at all!”)

{Happy}

Lots of {happy} again for you this week because, despite the hard moments of parenting littles (of which there are plenty. Oof, are there plenty – Wednesday was one hard moment after another, not to mention the fun of caretaking when you have the stomach flu that I experienced Tuesday!), despite the ugliness of the world around us, these little girls bring so much happiness with them wherever they go. The world is a better place because they are in it.

In the past few weeks, Abby’s discovered the fun of leaving her mark. Though she’s much busier than her sister, constantly wanting to be on the move, she will sit for a few minutes at a time with crayons and paper, squiggling away.

(I’m not sure whether we have another lefty on our hands or not: a few months ago, I was fairly certain she favored her right hand, but now she seems to use whichever one is most convenient. Perhaps she’ll use both.)

Grandma-induced giggles are the best.

Oh, did this piano make this girl happy!

Each week, Grandma brings a something special to do with Katie. Sometimes it’s an art project, sometimes it’s a board game, sometimes it’s a book. The last few visits, she’s brought a big stack of puzzles. Watching the two of them fit the pieces together is a delight, and it reminds me of how quickly the time goes. A few months ago, some of these same puzzles required a great deal of help and prompting with each piece. Yesterday, she was putting them together with ease.

Abby’s becoming more and more vocal. As evidenced by this video.

{Funny}

As I said, Abby has places to go and people to see. This is how a typical book reading goes with this girl: five seconds and she’s out, needing to be on the move.

For Christmas last year, my parents gave Katie a Build-A-Bear gift card. Good parents that we are, we finally managed to take her to a Build-A-Bear store this past Friday. Prior to going, she told us she wanted a bunny, but once we were in the store, nothing could convince her away from this garish festive bear. Nothing. It was love at first sight. And so, Bear has become a constant companion: in bed at night, on walks, in the car, Bear comes along for the ride.

I’m not exactly sure why Abby thought it was a good idea to try to grab her sister’s eye, other than that perhaps she’s exhibiting younger sibling tendencies early (ha! I kid, I kid), but Katie was remarkably tolerant of this impish behavior. She just kept working her puzzle, as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. (Which, perhaps, was true: nothing out of the ordinary was happening.)

(Also, disclaimer, lest you’re thinking it’s all harmonious accord and sisterly love around here: Katie is just as likely to respond with, “No, Abby!” and a shove as she is to be patient. She is, after all, a human being. And a three-year-old human being, at that.)

{Real}

I received a Stitch Fix box* this week. As I was trying on each piece, Katie decided to get in on the fun: she grabbed one of the blouses, slipped it over her head, and hopped up onto the chair so she could see herself in the bathroom mirror.

“Look at my pretty, pretty dress, Mama,” she said to me, her face alight with glee.

I looked at her, my beautiful girl, with her purple-painted toenails and her mussed hair and her three-year-old delight.

“Yes, sweetheart. A pretty, pretty dress on a pretty, pretty girl.”

I leaned in to kiss the top of her head, and I felt a pang as I held her, as I watched Abby crawl over to pull herself up to look up at the big sister she adores. I’ve felt this pang often, in these four+ years of mothering precious ones, but in recent weeks, it’s become more acute.

Theirs is a world of smiles and of laughter, of security and trust, of unfettered enjoyment of the good things life has to offer. (Well, they might disagree with that last statement: after all, they do have parents who tell them no, parents who insist on things like kindness and respect and bed time.) Their hurts are childish hurts. Their disappointments, while big in their small worlds, are childish disappointments. While I know that sin runs through every human heart, that these precious girls have experienced darkness both in their own actions and in the actions of their parents, they have the innocence that befits their age. They do not know how ugly people can be, what awful and horrific acts we’re capable of.

One day, though, they will learn. They will learn of men (and, yes, women) who abuse their positions of power and influence to subjugate and humiliate those in their control. They will learn of a hyper-sexualized culture, one that has twisted and defiled the beauty of intimacy, turned it into something to be bought and sold and traded for pleasure and called such an exchange good. They will learn of broken people doing broken things, and their hearts will break with the knowledge.

I looked at my pretty girl, thrilled to be in her “pretty dress,” a girl who dances half-clad with abandon through our home regardless of who might be here, a girl who is naked with no shame. She’s a girl who runs for the joy of it, who twirls with no thought of how she might look, who loves her body for the way it moves and the things it can do.

She will, God willing, grow up much as I did, surrounded by men (and women) who only ever treat her with respect, in both word and deed. Chances are, she will never meet the movie executives or the politicians or the powerful CEOs who would use her then discard her like so much trash. Her life circumstances and her family situation lessen the chances that she will fall prey to molestation or predation. But still, she might. She might.

And even if she is never harmed physically, she is still a human being in this culture. She will hear of the horrors that happen to others. She will witness the ways sex and human bodies are portrayed in popular culture, in advertising, in Hollywood. She will experience offhand comments and, perhaps, the shame that comes with modesty taught poorly. She might be pressured by a friend, by a peer, to go further than she ought, to do more than she wants.

And so I will teach her about all the things buzzing around social media these days: about respect and value and kindness, about consent and wisdom and situational awareness. I will tell her of the ways our culture’s handling of sexuality and desire degrades and devalues and damages all of us, regardless of gender. I will do everything I can to reinforce her own view of her inherent worth, her inherent beauty, to show her the image of God present in her and in others.

But even if I do these things, and every other parent does, too, even if somehow, we turn the tide so that the culture she grows up in is healthier than that of our own upbringing, even if, by God’s grace, we manage such a feat, this is the hard truth: sin runs deep through every human heart, working its way out into the world in whatever ways it can. There will always be Harvey Weinsteins in the world, always be those who would use and abuse those in their power. There will always be those in dark alleys and unlit parking lots, waiting for an opportunity to strike. And, beyond that particular brand of darkness, there will always be those who harm with their words, even well-meant, who do damage in ways more subtle.

And so, beyond teaching her of consent, of respect, of wisdom, I will point her to the deeper truth, beneath it all, to the truth broken, hurting humanity keeps driving me toward, despite how churchy it sounds: the world needs Jesus. Desperately. And so does she. So does she.

That’s a glimpse of the {pretty, happy, funny and real} happening in my world this week. How about you?

*FYI: that’s an affiliate link. If you sign up and order a box, I get $25 off my next order.

Family and Parenting, Loving God, Loving Others

Tags: , , , , , ,

One Response to {PHFR} – Beautiful Girls in a Not-Always-Beautiful World

  1. Jamie says:

    Such a great note at the end. So heart breaking, but with some hope, thanks!