My whole life, I’ve felt I was special. But I wasn’t special. Not really.
I was a typical kid with quirks and faults that morphed into pitfalls of destructive social mores . . . even still, through it all, I felt I was special. Worth something. Smart. Beautiful. Extraordinary.
This has everything to do with how I was raised. My parents saw me as extraordinary. They set the bar super high, and by holy hell water I was not going to let them down. Not because there would be hell to pay but because there would be a level of unspoken disappointment that would prove unbearable. Somehow, I knew this instinctively early on. There was no option but for me to be something special. Simply because I was something special.
Not only that. I was pretty.
Yes. I was told I was pretty from an early age. And, honestly, beyond all the smart and special and other kinds of praise that was showered on me, this was the most important. To me. A young girl. Shamefully true, but true nonetheless.
And try as I might to become a success in life . . . no matter how many honors I achieve, how many awards I win, how much praise I receive for my performance, I yearn for that reinforcement–from my parents, my friends, my husband . . . that I’m pretty. And I’ve been lucky. I’ve always felt confident and strong and happy with how I look–on a somewhat sliding scale (I mean, hey, I did live through the 80s by gosh . . .)
Fate has me living in my hometown after over twenty years of living away while believing I was that special, that kind of over-the-top talent, that kind of head-turning beauty. Since being home, I’ve been to several fundraisers and honorariums for different community groups that have been in existence long before my existence . . . and I’ve seen pictures of my mother in her prime. Gosh, that breath-taking beauty. I’ve proudly posted her photo on social media, praised her, raised her up, bragging to anyone who would listen–look, that’s my mother. Look how beautiful. And talented. And special. And extraordinary.
I don’t know when it’s supposed to happen that you see yourself for who you really are. Maybe it’s supposed to happen this way. Tonight, I looked across the room at my 70+ y/o momma and was simply breath taken by her light and energy and beauty. Yes, not only her appearance, but her spirit. It was inspiringly captivating.
On her and my father’s anniversary, several pictures were taken–some of which captured me in my truth. And it woke me up a little.
My parents so empowered me throughout my childhood, I sometimes felt I knew better than they did. Maybe all grown children do this with their parents . . . and it’s an ugly truth . . . but I have often wanted to correct them, or rolled my eyes at their habits, or outright scolded them–silently or aloud–for something insignificant but somehow intrusive to my life. And, gosh, my mother has always shown such overt deference to me, I’ve often mistaken it for authority. She so often showers me with praise and love and affection, I too often take it for granted. I believe it too easily.
The truth is, I’m no better than my parents. It seems so obvious to write the words, but I have to admit I haven’t always felt that way. And that thing that I always felt so confident about–my looks? Well, guess what. I’m no extraordinary beauty. I’m not complaining. I’m fine with my appearance. But compared to my mother? There’s simply no contest! It’s so ridiculously clear. She was the true beauty. She was the standout, head-turning, throat-catching, student-crush-worthy stunner that you only see on the movie screen. She was that kind of beauty.
And still is.
Why am I only seeing this now?
As a mom, I try to balance praise with tough love. Encouragement with constructive criticism. Sternness with unconditional–not only love, but acceptance. As a daughter, I need to do the same with my parents. As we grow older–God willing–together, I want to lift them up the same way they lifted me. They gave me the best gift. They gave me a storybook childhood and a life most people could only dream of. They trusted me before I earned their trust. They respected me before I did anything worthwhile. Maybe it’s time to put them first for a change. Don’t they deserve it?
My mom certainly does.