Ok. My kids at school always go through this spring fever thing. It starts right after Christmas. I watch these older kids who were just kids become something more than just kids. They're learning how to be teenagers. Or at least, they're trying. TV, popular tween books, and movies have a lot to do with what they believe they're learning. Older siblings sometimes contribute. Our girls suddenly want to be beautiful on purpose - and that's the thing . . . they feel like they have to be beautiful on purpose. They feel like they weren't already beautiful, like it's a matter of intention and not a virtue of their existence. Those of us who already love them know different - we know they've been beautiful, precious, treasures since before they were born.
When I was in the 6th grade I used to sneak makeup to school in my backpack. Makeup was not allowed at home. It was "body glitter" and eye liner . . . dark purple lipstick . . . stuff my mother would never have supported my wearing. During first period class I'd go to the bathroom and put it all on. At the end of the day before getting in line for the bus, I'd go back to the bathroom and take it all off.
One day I forgot to go into the bathroom before getting on the bus.
Sometimes I walked home from the bus stop - about a half mile. But it was a rainy day and my mom had driven to pick me up. I got into her car wearing eyeliner, purple lipstick, glitter on my cheeks. She was disappointed. She wanted to know why I wanted to wear this stuff.
"Because I want to be pretty."
My teenage rebellion was early and short lived. I wasn't rebellious again until college, and at that point I hurt myself so much worse than my parents that I decided it wasn't worthwhile to ever walk that path again. Girls, being a "goody goody" is ok. It doesn't equal a life free of all heart break, but it does help us keep our feet on the ground, and that's worth an awful lot.
Movies, books, TV, advertising, magazines - our girls are bombarded with this idea that gossip, manipulation, excessive makeup, a lack of modesty, and the act of being at odds with grown ups in their lives will make them beautiful, wanted, and sought.
Girls can't live in bubbles free of popular influence. They need to be taught how to read between the lines. They need to be savvy. They need to understand what's real and what's not. And we should be honest and intentional about it when we talk to them.
When I was a teenager I had this magical group of women. They all went to my church. We traveled together in the summers. Several of them worked with my youth group and I had been learning from them for years. They were a diverse group - diverse in age, diverse in career, life experience, and family structure. They had differing opinions about stuff. But they had a big, important commonality between them: They were tough as nails, they loved God, and they cared about kids like me learning that pop culture wasn't THE culture.
We rode around third world countries in pickup trucks and carts. We hiked on mountain retreats. We sat around bunk rooms and campfires, and for about 8 years, I learned from them. I learned how to go without makeup. I learned how to be honest with other women about who I was, and to trust that other women were not out to get me (pop culture teaches our girls that women should not trust other women - I could cite examples for you, but the list would be too long).
They talked about their lives. They talked about having kids and careers. They talked about education and faith . . . they talked to us about love. I learned about the magic of enjoying everyday life. I learned about the fact that you could be married for 30 years and still consider your husband the love of your life - and that it wasn't earth shattering. It was better than earth shattering - it was real.
And then of course, there's always been Mom. My mother. My mother is beautiful. She hardly ever wears makeup. That day when she picked me up from the bus stop she didn't yell at me . . . she was patient about it. She told me that in a few years she'd teach me how to do makeup the right way, but that it was too soon. And she was right. She has always been right about all of that.
Ladies, our girls need women who will teach them how to be honest and real.
They need women who will teach them subversive lessons about beauty.
They need us.
Every day when I get ready for work, I think about this. I think about what I'm wearing. I think about whether or not it's a good example for my girls - my 5th grade students who are watching everything and learning from it without thinking.
Someday they'll be trying to figure out the love thing in real life . . . and whatever they've learned about beauty leading up to this very important discovery will mean the difference between what is healthy and what is not.
I remember meeting my husband.
I met him 2 years before we dated, and even after that it would be another 3 until our wedding. I remember meeting him. He was smart. I knew it right away. But I had always undervalued smart. Talking to him was simple. And I had always undervalued simple. That's a pop culture thing. Simple doesn't make a good movie. You can't base an entire season of shows on simple. There's no drama in simple.
Lesson # 10million that our girls will need to learn from us . . . . Love does not have to equal Drama.
You don't need drama for the right person to look at you like that, ladies. It can be so simple.
And it will become even more simple - beautifully mundane. You will be doing dishes together, packing and unpacking, doing laundry, helping each other with big projects for work, maybe having children, working out schedules for ball games and dance lessons, going to parent teacher conferences, writing grocery lists . . . and it can be glorious.
Girls young and old - don't let popular culture trick you into thinking that your ordinary life is anything less than a miracle!!!
It is a miracle.
Two people being themselves and also together is a miracle.
Two people working out schedules and keeping a home life afloat is a miracle.
Two people respecting each other on a daily basis is a miracle.
Two people being honest and tackling tough conversations with grace - a miracle.
And hey - it won't always be easy. Our hearts can get broken in little and big ways even in the middle of our daily miracles. But when we allow humility to be our guiding light in all of this (another thing we can't learn from most of our favorite films and shows), we'll be ok. We'll be able to listen. We'll be able to keep our honesty alive. And we'll make it.
"It's a tired pain and a slow burn with the 'day to day' and the 'live and learn' . . . . I need a spirit that can love. I need a fire that carries on into the dark we carry in as we are coming home."
The best love songs tell the truth, girls. Normal is an adventure. Learning is a necessity. Humility is a blessing. And before you love somebody else, you're going to need to love yourself. So that you have a candle to carry into the dark we sometimes run into with the partners we choose in life.
Moms, teachers, sisters, camp counselors, coaches . . . we need to teach our girls what it is to trust that these things are allowed go without air brushing. Let them see the real life normal. Be the example. Be the truth teller. And it will be so good for them.