Dear Cupcake and Princess P,
This year you sat with me, anxiously awaiting Lady Gaga’s Super bowl performance. It did not disappoint. You girls loved the bravery and the flying but most of all, the outfit made entirely of sparkly silver sequins.
The next day, I opened my browser to find an entirely different message. One that made me so thankful that you girls were too young to use the internet. A place where the world was not discussing the fearlessness of repelling from the top of a stadium and flying through the air. They were not contemplating the brilliant use of art to bring people together― Trump supporters and Pantsuit Nation singing as one a resounding chorus of “Born This Way.”
What were people discussing, you may ask? An indiscernible roll of stomach fat.
Girls, I wish I could say this was an isolated incident. But unfortunately, you will probably discover that we live in a world that is more than willing, eager even, to point out ways that you do not measure up. Sadly, the anonymity that exists behind the screen of a device has made this particular form of nastiness easier than ever before. My heart sinks to imagine that soon enough you too will experience the frustration of achieving something great only to have the finish line moved ― to discover that you can do something truly amazing and there will still be people who will say, “Never Enough.”
But it won’t just come from strangers. There may be relatives or acquaintances that no matter what you do and how much you accomplish will always only comment on what you are wearing or ask if you are dating anyone. Later they will constantly inquire about when you will get married. And once you are married, they will move on to asking when you are having babies. In this you may hear the harsh whisper of “Never Enough.”
Maybe you will experience it in the impossibly high standards of modern motherhood, where the world focuses on getting your “body back” after baby, more than it celebrates a body that created the miracle of life. Or in the world of Pinterest walls and social media with their constant filters and focus on eliminating flaws, where you will read about planning the perfect birthday party for your toddler complete with four-tiered homemade gluten free, sugar free cake and a theme. It may cause you to look at the world around you and feel the painful stab of, “Never Enough.”
Perhaps you will recognize it watching other women. Those who have spent their whole life cultivating a successful career and fighting for issues they care about only to be accused of being too unapproachable ― advised they should smile more and really be more friendly. Maybe you will be told that your passion about something is too emotional and conversely that your assertiveness makes you too much of a shrew. In this you may realize that any option you choose as a woman will come with a dose of, “Never Enough.”
This may leave you asking what to do when people criticize. And it is here I find hope in Lady Gaga’s graceful response to her critics:
“Be you, and be relentlessly you” anyway.
Princess P, I laugh as you light up with joy when the music comes on moving without regard for anyone else in the room. As a 1-year-old, you stick out your belly and smile with delight at it’s round shape. Cupcake, I see that you love math and staying up late to read with a flashlight under your covers. Like your mother, you are fond of fiercely arguing a point and will say whatever is on your mind. I want you to know that your dad and I will do our best to see to it that you never become less than this true expression of yourselves.
For this reason, I urge you to not allow the words of others to hold too much weight. Don’t let the pursuit of an unachievable perfection steal your happiness, cloud your ability to accurately perceive your strengths, or rob you of the joy of celebrating your accomplishments. Don’t listen when the world tries to tell you that you are not enough.
This Valentine’s Day, most of all, I want to promise you that Mommy and Daddy will not join with the world in pointing out your perceived shortcomings. I have seen first hand the damage this does to girls, creating a constant and enduring sense of insecurity and unhappiness that can last for decades. This is not what I want for you.
I also realize that at times this will be hard because being close to someone puts you front and center for experiencing their flaws. You will probably become keenly aware of ours when you are a teenager. But right now you love us completely, and we will strive to follow your example.
Although I recognize that we can not control the messages of the outside world, we are in control of what you experience at home. And I know that the greatest gift we can give you as your parents is to surround you with a love that is not conditional, that does not depend on a certain set of criteria, and one that will be with you on your best days as well as your worst.
This does not mean that we will not push you to achieve the great things we know you are capable of or set our expectations high. We will. But we will also be right there beside you, cheering you on.
Because inevitably there will be days where you will feel like you do not measure up and will need someone to remind you that you do. And eventually when you embark out into the world and we are no longer right beside you, I hope that you will hear our words of encouragement echoing in your ears ― words that originate from a love that is louder, stronger and more enduring than the whispers of the world. A love that is now a part of you and will allow you to love yourself.
Be smart, be brave, be fierce, be kind, but most of all be you. And remember that always and no matter what, that is enough.
Mommy and Daddy
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