Recently my beautiful daughter turned 13. Now all children are by definition beautiful, at least to their parents. But somewhere over the years, both from my own observations, and from the comments of others, I came to realize that the child I is, quite objectively, beautiful.
Just as I was prepared, as a mom, for a child who would turn out to be just about anything but a ballet dancer (a whole different post); I wasn't really prepared to have a daughter who was beautiful. On my best days as a child I managed cute, later maybe handsome, but never beautiful. And that's been true of most girls in my family. Cute maybe, pretty maybe, but not beautiful. I knew all the speeches people make to comfort the homely child: "You are so good at other things" or "Let people see your inner beauty". All these supportive cliches I knew from my own youth.
My daughter, however, hit the jackpot in the gene pool and took after her dad's side of the family in looks and got the best of both sides in everything else. As a baby she was the near duplicate of her aunt, my husband's sister, and my niece, all of them blessed with lovely blond hair (once it finally came in) and high cheekbones. She took after her dads side on the body build too, short in body but long legs and arms, a perfect dancer body. Then on top of everything else she turned out to be smart and musical. I felt like I had some sort of fairy changeling on my hands. If I hadn't given birth to her I'd have wondered if I'd had any input in the process at all.
One day when she was about 10 my mother said to me "Don't tell her I said this but she is really beautiful". I told her we had been trying to keep it from her but I thought she had figured it out. Others notice too. That girl is really beautiful they say, with a small note of astonishment. I can already see the young males giving her that second glance in public, though she seems unaware as yet.
Having a child who is really attractive has its own problems.You worry more about boys for one thing. You worry she will become more egotistical, that she will lord it over the less gifted. And you worry she will try to get by on her looks and let other things side. And somewhere deep in the mothers heart you worry that you won't measure up, especially as they (and you) get older.
When we see the ugly duckling/swan story told in the media it's usually about beautiful and talented mom and the Plain Jane child who has to live up to her. But try flipping the story for a moment. Think what it is to be the rather plain and not at all svelte mom of the beautifully proportioned and gifted child. Some times it seems like she took all the best of both sides of the family and perfected it. That's a wonderful gift from the muses, but its also a lot to keep up with.
It is not that I am not proud of her. Just ask any of the friends who have to hear me go on about her (and her brother) at all opportunities. And I don't think there is really any jealousy on my part; I came to terms with the me that I am a long time ago. I do perhaps envy her the trials of the popular she complains of, the juggling of multiple friends and the stresses of so many expecting so much of her in music and dance and academics.
Because I was nearly 40 when she was born, we also deal with the "my mom is old" issue. I think this issue is a much bigger deal for girls than for boys. I'm told I look good for my age, but what meaning does that have to a teenager who thinks anything over 30 is ancient? There have been times when she has pretended not to know me on the bus or in the store once she spotted friends in the area. I know this is often true of any pre-teen, they are all mortified to acknowledge the existence of parents (except of course on payday), But it is still hard. We want to be heroic in our children's eyes, and we want them to convey that to their friends also. Such feelings take a tumble when you head for the front of the bus and your kid goes to the back door. When she gets older, will we embarrass her? Not in the classic "let me show you naked baby pictures" that it is the parents prerogative to embarrass the kids with, but in the deeper sense. I hope not.
My greatest fear is that she will be like so many attractive women, always dissatisfied with her looks and trying to fix what is already perfect. Or that she will be afraid to trust the affections of others because they might only be interested in her looks. (On the flip side dear, don't be too quick to trust them either. Dang its hard being a parent.)
There are no answers of course. She and I will both no doubt revisit these issues, together and separately the rest of our lives. Because that's my beautiful daughter.