How do we parent with imperfections?
About a month ago, I unearthed a video that I knew defined me. See, it’s a video of my first “cooking show” where I baked chocolate chip cookies with my dad. If you know me in real life, you know that’s pretty much what I’ve dedicated my grown-up life to as well.
But that wasn’t the most significant takeaway. No, not seeing my dad in all his 80s glory, setting me up for success with all the compliments and his late 80s beard. No, not that I had already figured out how to talk to the camera and put ingredients in a bowl at the same time at eight years old. No, not the obvious love between parent and child and back again that explodes off the screen.
I took away that I had a spot on my nose.
In an instant, a whole bunch of memories came flooding back. I remember seeing a doctor and them telling my parents it was a (sorry, TMI) spot where a bunch of blackheads came together, and it would go away after puberty. I remember feeling shameful about it and embarrassed this big flashing notice of imperfection was at the end of my beak.
But in the interim, I had forgotten it was there.
Back to the present, I immediately went to a mirror and examined myself at great length as women do, and lo and behold, the spot is still there! I’ve been to roughly 1,000 dermatologists in the passing years, so I know its not cancer. Shoot, it’s really just a big freckle.
But now that I’ve gotten the reminder, it’s all I can see. Nevermind that it’s been literally right under my eyeballs for 39 years. It had blended into the list of inadequacies I like to flog myself for over my lifetime.
Now I can’t not see it. I can’t use enough concealer or take pictures head-on. I promise you no one else would notice this except me, but I can’t let it go. Perhaps I need another 30 years to forget. (Though by 69 I probably will have forgotten much more than what’s at the end of my nose.)
I know this is a thing that women do, but now my daughters are watching. Oh, what an extra layer of angst it is to wrestle with my unachievable beauty standards while they watch me! How do I tell them that looks don’t matter while I can lose heaps of time scanning the mirror for imperfections? How do I tell them they are beautiful (because oh my goodness, are they!) without them feeling like it defines them?
No, seriously, how do I? I don’t have the answer here. I hope you do.
But at the very least, know that I see you. Beyond this faulty nose of mine, I see you. Struggling with whatever imperfections you’re struggling with without trying to give the same issues to your children.
Whew, this parenting thing isn’t for the faint of heart.