Just as I was trying on my new swimsuit and quietly criticizing myself for not being smaller here and less curvy there, Maylie came into the room and so sweetly announced, “I love your swimsuit, Mama. You look beautiful!”
For a moment, I couldn’t help but feel beautiful. Until she followed it up with, “You look like you are going to have another baby!” (Side note: I am not going to have another baby.)
At that moment, I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry. But I knew the innocence and honesty in her voice proved that it probably was true. I must look like I have a baby belly in that suit. I wanted to take it off, take it back. I mean surely, I do not want to be walking around in a swimsuit that is that unflattering on me.
I thought about her comment for a minute and decided that maybe it was time that I had a little talk with her about couth and when to say things and when to use a filter. But then, I started to really think about what she had said — all of what she had said.
In the most positive tone, with truth echoing out, she told me I was beautiful. She saw that I have some weight to lose — she commented on it. But she didn’t do it negatively. She actually found me attractive just the way I was. She liked the suit and what she saw. It was me who had the issue with my appearance in it.
You see, that’s how life is once the world grabs a hold of us and brainwashes us to believe that we all need to look a certain way or be a certain size. What we think is beautiful is built on a perception of what everyone else thinks is beautiful. We lose our sense of individuality and ability to truly see beauty from our own point of view. We feel the pressure and eventually give in to the way the world says that beauty is supposed to look like.
But our babies, they don’t see that until they are taught that. My sweet girls could care less if I put on 30 pounds or lose 20, as long as I can still play Barbies and ride bikes with them. They have no problem with me coming home from work and putting on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. And if it wasn’t for their love to “put on their make-up” with me, they wouldn’t mind if I never put on another swipe of eyeliner or mascara.
To them, my beauty rests in the cuddles before bed, the dance parties in the living room, the karaoke in the car, the water balloon fights, the lightening bug catches and the blowing of bubbles.
They don’t see the extra roll that I feel when I sit down next to them on the driveway to make an amazing chalk creation — or if they do, it doesn’t matter to them. They don’t care about a stretch mark here or extra fluff there. They don’t realize that I am putting on concealer to hide a blemish, because blemishes or not, they love me.
And it is the purest kind of love, the most genuine and sincere. As a mother, I always thought I held the unconditional love card in my hand, that there was nothing my babies could ever do that would make me love them any less. But what I didn’t realize was they, too, have that unconditional love card in their hand.
My kids, they just want me — all of me — for who I am. They don’t care if I am big or small, old or young, dressed and done up for the day or lounging in house clothes with no make-up on and my hair up. When the amount of love you feel toward your tiny little humans flows back into the very center of your being, that is what being a mom truly feels like.
Needless to say, I kept the swimsuit. Not only that, I wore that suit to the public pool that day and then all around the neighborhood chasing my girls as they went from our little pool to the neighbor’s bigger pool and back again.
Not surprisingly, the physical reflection of myself in the mirror wearing that swimsuit remains the same. I still have that baby pouch present from carrying my sweet girls. Yet somehow, an innocent comment from my girl made me reflect a little differently. And just thinking about the view from my daughter’s eyes makes me feel like the most beautiful mom in the world.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.