I posted once about the things I grew up hearing as a child. And one of the mothers of my children responded how it was such a necessary reminder, telling me how she used to tease her daughter for being dark until she realised that it hurt her daughter.
Then she stopped.
This woman truly felt she was not equipped to be a mother. Yet even in her weakness, her daughter’s feelings mattered to her. She wanted to be reminded should she be tempted to say other mean things, or trivialise the mean things they were saying to her girl at school.
Moms, what do you want your daughter’s inner voice to tell her? Moms, what you say to your girl, would you want to hear it said to you? Do her feelings, does her heart matter to you? Do you want to be the voice that tells her she’s wonderfully made? Or do you want her to think she’s a disappointment to you? Not good enough? Someone to be ashamed of?
Much of what became my inner voice has shaped most of the most recent surgeries I’ve undergone (Of which I’ll share in a future post), and so I share this to caution moms out there. What we say to our children has eternal consequences. No matter how brave and strong your child becomes, she will always be the little girl who doesn’t want to be a disappointment to you, her precious mom.
I grew up hearing that my forehead was too big, too high. I tried to hide it by combing my permed hair into a tiny fringe to try hide my forehead size. I was then taunted by a junior school teacher for this. We sat in a carol service practice with the entire school, and my teacher yelled at me for having my hair “hiding my whole face and looking ridiculous.” She said I must pull my hair back. Except, as I said, it was a tiny fringe. My outraged White friend pointed out to me that the WHITE girls had real fringes that REALLY hid their faces and covered their eyes, but our White teacher didn’t shout at them, why me?
See this is the other thing. At school, the teachers made me feel less than because of my unchangeable-not chosen by me-features. Then at home, I’m hearing many times that my forehead-unchangeable and not my choice-is big and ugly. What place was safe for me?
I was told that my calves were too skinny. So I chose exercises that specifically targeted the calf, in an attempt to grow them with muscle. Never happened! My calf muscles became lean, not bulky. 😝
And seriously, who at my church would have thought my age 12 all the way to 16 year old self was REALLY a drunk? And if they did but we knew that I wasn’t, so what? Wasn’t principle higher than external appearances and ‘beauty?’ Apparently not. Sabbath mornings reminded me that my unchosen-made by God-features were a shame to those who loved me and needed to be hidden from my church family.
At the end of my junior school years, the next long-lasting complaint was that my lower lip was red. I was told I looked “like a drunk” and must wear brown lipstick to church to hide the lip. Except my church taught us that we need not paint ourselves, for God wanted us just as we were and showing HIS beauty. My dad even used to make visiting cousins who weren’t part of our church take their jewelry off, that’s how strict we were! Do you know how damaging it is to make a young girl who loves and honours her strict faith principles break those principles because she’s apparently disappointing and an embarrassment to you?
Now to set context, in junior school, the ballet teacher had wished I could take ballet professionally. She said I was a natural. Later on, another dance teacher with whom a bunch of us went to Moscow with, told me I should take up modern dancing and hip hop, as I was perfect at it. But still… When my mother caught me in my bedroom dancing one day in my high school years, then mocked me, saying I “dance like a real Adventist,” (Ie. Real Adventists were viewed as strict and boring and obviously couldn’t dance -like ‘worldly’ people can) I believed her. I stopped dancing when there were people around. Why look stupid and stiff?
I also grew up being told I look like my dark-skinned brother. Being told I’m dark. And being told I look like a boy. And hearing from church people too that I look like him. What that translated to was that I looked like a boy..but I was a girl. Which meant to me, I was ugly. Obviously as an adult, I can see what the church people meant. But hearing it while hearing from the one who loved me that those brother-like features were a NEGATIVE, didn’t help.
Then teenage pimples came. My mom took me to doctor after doctor. They told her it’s hormonal and would pass after some years. They gave us creams and face washes just to placate her. Yet other girls had real acne and their moms didn’t make them feel ugly. Why me? Not a single other soul had even mentioned my skin.. We’d pass beauty counters in Edgars, or some skin place and she’d always ask them how to get rid of my pimples. I felt so embarrassed. Like I was so gross that I needed to be fixed. We couldn’t just go shopping without my being reminded that I looked awful.
I was a mess. I was a disappointment. I couldn’t dance. I had ugly lips and an ugly forehead. And even when I was just caught reading my Bible, she mocked me, asking if I was trying to make myself holy.
My inner voice, the voice I heard from the one who loved me, told me that I was a shame. I was embarrassing. That what I did was silly. The way I moved was embarrassing, even my relationship with God was stupid. All of it, all of me, was one big consistent disappointment.
When all you want is to make your parents happy or proud, but you feel like when your parent looks at you, you make them feel disgusted… That stays with you forever.
And so, even when my husband was telling me that I didn’t NEED the most recent surgery, that I was fine just as I am but that because there’s a chance it might help reduce my back pain, he would reluctantly say ok, of course I went ahead. I didn’t want to feel like each time they laid eyes on me, I was a disappointment to yet another one who loved me. EVEN THOUGH HE NEVER EVER MADE ME FEEL THAT WAY.
So, all I ask, all I beg, is that you moms and wanna be moms learn from my scarred heart.
Tell your daughters (and sons) how proud you are of them. Of their singing, or proud of their love for movement instead of being lazy couch potatoes. Tell them you love how they help you set the table. Tell them you love how God gave them their velvety brown skin, or their thick auburn hair or their lithe dancer’s body.
Tell them you love their dedication to church, to reading, to their God. Tell them you love how they wash their school socks every day without being reminded. Notuce how their school marks are improving, or how hard they’re working.
Tell them anything true and positive about themselves . Whatever it is!
I will never forget the day in my university days that a homeless lady told me I had such a beautiful smile that it had brightened her day. Me? Brighten the day of someone who’s down and out just by smiling? Impossible!
Or the day a Coloured lady at the Pick n Pay bakery section called a Black guy out from the back just to tell him to look at me and agree with her that I was beautiful.
My immediate thoughts were, “Wow! It’s actually possible to NOT look like an ugly boy to someone?? Could a guy one day think I’m beautiful enough for him to want to look at me every day of his life?”
That was a revolutionary thought. Beauty was not in the eye of the beholder for me. Rather, my mommy was my whole world and therefore everyone obviously‘beheld’ like she did. I’d internalised therefore, that the whole world also beheld and saw a stiff, ugly, girl who looks like a boy and has ugly legs and lips to be hidden. Who would ever be attracted to me?
May the inner voice our daughters (and sons) hear strengthen them all their lives. May it make them bold. Make them humble yet sure of themselves. May they only want to change what is REALLY negative in their characters, behaviours or habits. May they feel wanted, loved, cared for; their hearts tenderly held in our hands. Precious to us..just as they were the day they were born or the day they were adopted; when all we cared about was that they were alive and HERE. When their mere existence was a cause for our joy.
(An elder once told me he didn’t like hearing how I’d overcome certain childhood heartaches. That I must never tell a truth if it’s not showing someone in a positive light. Now, I’m all for that. But not if my keeping quiet will cause harm for someone else. If I can prevent one other woman from causing damage, if I can remind just one to care about her daughter’s-or son’s-feelings like my posts helped my child’s biological mother, then in the same way the Bible records everything, I too will. God didn’t care about representing people as perfect when they were not, He cared about what is right. He cared about us learning from those who went before us, so we could improve on their lives. God told us that David who He loved with all His heart was a murderous adulterer. And that it was wrong. And that it had consequences.
That’s what I want too. To remind us in 2022, that there are consequences to our actions. Good..AND bad. I’d you don’t like knowing all my truths, don’t read/listen.)