They have a ritual, my daughter and mother. My daughter, G, at some point during my mother’s visit, sits in my mother’s lap, takes my mother’s face in her little hands, and asks, “Grandma, why do you have so many wrinkles?”
My mother takes it in stride and explains it’s part of getting older. G accepts that and moves on.
But I guess my mother hasn’t visited enough recently lately because I got the questions last week.
“Mama,” G asked, poking me. “What’s this?”
It was my elbow; apparently, mine has more wrinkles than hers. (Seriously, the things you never think about until you have kids.)
“My elbow looks different than yours, love,” I explained. “It’s a little wrinkly.” (And, yes, I said wrinkly first, so I likely brought this on.)
“Why do you have wrinkles?”
“Well, wrinkles mean you are older. But they also mean you have wisdom,” I said, silently cursing myself for my lack of creativity. Wisdom? Really?!
“Oh, Mama,” she exclaimed, grabbing my face in her hands. “You’re not old; you’re just a plain mommy.” Then, she hugged me tight. For a brief moment, I forgot she called me a “plain mommy” rather than old (I’m not just which is worse). In fact, I lost the thread of our conversation entirely. It came back to me later, though, as most things do these days.
G’s inquiry started me thinking about how we see one another. What we see as attractive at four, at 40, and in our 70s is, perhaps, different. There’s a fluidity, especially, to our definition of beauty. My daughter’s beauty comes from her effervescence and from all of the potential ahead of her. My mother, too, is beautiful, but hers is borne from countless hours loving our family and from her deep capacity for friendship and selflessness. A friend’s beauty is from her generosity of spirit; another shines because of her ability to always know what to say and how to attend to another’s hurt. They all have physical characteristics that are noteworthy–long legs, shining eyes, Pre-Raphaelite hair–but they wouldn’t have stayed with me were it not for the person herself. I see this kind of beauty–the kind that comes from spirit and character–as so much more interesting than the models or actresses described as “hot” in our popular media. That’s a label based on shallow criteria and one that, many times, disrespects the person.
My challenge, one I suspect many parents share, is how to instill in my daughter, and my son, the skills to assess and value true beauty–no matter how many wrinkles surround it.
One of my goals from attending BlogHer’13 is to write more often. Writing is a muscle, one of the speakers explained, and the more you use it, the stronger it will become. So, to that end, I’ve joined NaBloPoMo this month. NaBloPoMo is a daily (weekends are for free writing) blogging exercise centered around a theme. For August 2013, it’s, appropriately, hot. The daily writing prompts can be found here.