Can I Tell Her She is Pretty?

Hey Pretty Girl! I see you! Good morning, Beautiful!

Each morning since school started, I try to be the one that wakes Alice up. She sleeps in her footie jammies in a sleep sack, and since being able to roll, she prefers her tummy. I usually find her with her head in the same corner of the crib, not quite up against the slats, but close. She is a cuddle bug and I know she likes to feel cozy, but she is too little yet for me to let her have her bunny or a blankie in bed.

When I flick the light switch on, she rubs her eyes and buries her face in her hands and the flat sheet. Then she brings her head up, turns toward my voice, and with her eyes still squinted shut, smiles a big three-bottom-tooth grin.


Hey Alice! Hey there Pretty Girl!

Cortney picks Alice and Charlie up from daycare each day. They get home after Eddie and me around 5pm. When he sets Alice’s carrier on the counter, I am almost always the one to greet her and get her out. The moment she catches sight of me, I get a big, nose-scrunchy smile.


She is beautiful. Gorgeous, even.

When I look at her I see the prettiest baby in the world. When she coos and “talks” I tell her she has so much to say. I tell her what she says is important and that I love to hear it. I tell her she is so smart. I tell her she’s such a Big Girl when she accomplishes something like grasping a toy she has been working for or trying a new flavor of baby food.

I also tell her she is pretty. Constantly.


When I had only boys, I never thought twice about telling them how smart and handsome and wonderful they were. Yes, I read some things here and there that said you aren’t supposed to say “good job!” to your kids (of course I can’t find the dang thing now. I see it all over Pinterest forever and when I go to find it? Nope. Sorry.), but as someone who works with kids, I know what encouragement–or actually the lack of it–does to kids. So I vowed to always affirm my children’s positive behavior, accomplishments, and words.

For six years I have been raising men. I have focused in on how to be a mom of boys who will be good men someday. I have been conscious of not just encouraging them, but of being a role model of a strong, confident woman. I try to model constructive communication over yelling (key word: try). Cortney models how women should be treated.

I’m not going to say it’s easier to be the mom of boys, but I will say that I feel like encouraging them and guiding them to have a positive self-image is less of an anxiety trigger for me.

I don’t know a mom out there who doesn’t think her own children are the most beautiful in the world, but when it comes to girls, I also know that somewhere society becomes louder than our moms’ voices.


I don’t know when I started thinking I was awkward or less pretty than the other girls at school, but it was early. It was for sure by fourth grade. Maybe earlier.

I felt lanky and awkward. My hair was too frizzy. My bangs were weird. Then middle school rolled around and I had acne. I was flat-chested. I had zero curves. I weighed barely 100 pounds in high school and I felt like my thighs were too big.

In college I didn’t have the right “black booty pants” (fellow 90’s girls, I know you know what I mean). I was more Metallica than Back Street Boys, more Wu Tang than Will Smith. I wore a size 6 and was afraid of how many calories were in the beer I drank–although I would never say anything in front of all my guy friends.

As an adult I long for those size 6 pants and the short plaid skirts with Docs. Now I struggle with grey hair in my 30’s and pine for my long brown wonderful hair of my 20’s.

I can’t remember ever feeling pretty. Well, that’s not true. I can remember feeling pretty here and there, but not as a general rule. Not as an every day thing.


Before having a daughter, I agreed with people who said not to focus on looks. Talk about her brain. About how smart she is and how important her words are. Let her know she can be whatever she wants. Let her know it’s not about looks anyway.

But you know what?

For a lot of us, even though maybe it shouldn’t matter, it does. We want to feel pretty.

We want to feel good about ourselves and all of our nooks and crannies…just the way we are.


I still agree that we need to tell our girls how important their words and thoughts are; society still makes everything harder for women.  But I also think it’s ok–imperative even–that we tell our daughters they are beautiful.

Every day I have middle school girls who walk into my classroom feeling less than beautiful. I see the affects our culture already has on them at just thirteen years old. Some are already beaten down because they do not fit what our society defines as beauty…and no one has told them any different.

I equally don’t want Alice to feel like she has to fit some sort of mold as far as her looks, as well as I don’t want her to feel like she is anything less than gorgeous.


So maybe I’m not “supposed” to tell her she is pretty because heaven for bid, she may believe it. She may walk into a room not worrying what people think of her hair or skin or size. She may be able to focus on her thoughts and words because she is not worrying about whether or not she is pretty enough.

I am willing to take that risk.


Photos by TMV Photogrphy

Upsie Down

Ever since Eddie was very small he has hated to be upside down.

He loved to be bounced on our knees or wrestled with, but the minute you pick him up and fling him into a position that puts his feet above his head, he freaks out. FREAKS OUT.

I don’t know how to describe Eddie’s risk-taking.

He is very willing to try new things if he feels they are safe, or if he is sure one of us will keep him safe (aka be directly next to him through the experience).  And even then, once he realizes everything is fine, he easily ditches us.

He never thought twice about mastering bike-riding or going on the go-karts near the campground this past weekend, but when he feels he doesn’t have control of the situation anymore, his bravery goes out the window.

The go-karts ended up freaking him out because, even though he was riding with Cortney, going around the turns was rough and bumpy. He worriedly told daddy he wanted to be done.

He will wrestle and tickle torture and roughhouse for hours, but if he gets put upside down by an uncle who doesn’t know better, he grabs and clutches and cries until he is put right-side-up again.

He is a controlled risk-taker.

I was not surprised at all when he told us he wanted to do gymnastics.


We were sitting down with the Zeeland Rec catalog for the summer programs.  We told him he needed to do swimming lessons, but he could choose one other thing.

Choices were pretty limited for a three-almost-four-year old. He was pretty much the youngest age for any of the available programs.

He quickly told us he wanted to do gymnastics like Maddie and Brookie (the daughters of our daycare mom).

We were happy to oblige. Eddie thrives in environments with lots of organized activities and we feel it’s good for him to learn about turn taking and following directions.

Plus gymnastics is fun and helps with coordination.


It did not faze him that he was one of only two or three boys in the group, but he did love that his bestie Brookie was with him.

(side note: I played carpool mom for the first time in my life for this. Listening to two 4-year-olds have a “conversation”? Totally separate blog post. Seriously.)

But the days leading up to his first day he told me he was scared.

Then scared turned into, “I don’t want to do gymnastics. I only want to sit and watch Brookie do it.”

And then I finally got the real fear one night at bedtime: “Mom? I don’t want them to make me walk on my hands. I don’t want to be upsie down.”

There it was.

I am not sure what gave him the idea that they would make him do that right out of the gate, but in his young mind, gymnastics = handstands and walking on your hands.

He also told me thought it would hurt to stand on his head.

We talked it out and I told him they wouldn’t make him do anything he wasn’t super comfy doing, but that he could trust the teachers to keep him safe.

After just the first day I saw a new confidence in Eddie.

They didn’t make him do a handstand, but he did do a forward roll which he showed us over and over.

After the two weeks was up, Charlie and I got to stay and watch.


I watched in amazement as my little guy confidently trusted his teachers to help him do all sorts of new things…including going upside down into a handstand.

Each new trick he completed met me with a smile and a wave as he returned to his place on the mat for his next turn.


My little guy bounced through the stations with self-confidence. He knew what to do, how to listen to the instructions, how to wait his turn, and then how to get his mom’s jaw to hit the floor.

Not once did he falter. Not once did they have to coax him into anything.

He marched right up each time it was his turn and did the activity.


In the end he got a certificate and a ribbon that will forever be in his scrapbook.

But it’s not the paper and ribbon I will cherish the most from the Tots Gymnastics. It will be the confidence they gave my boy.

He may still have control issues over putting his face in the water…and he may not completely trust me or Cortney to fling him upside down over our shoulders (I mean, we are not gymnasts after all), but he is building up his confidence and faith in himself that he can do things that he tries.

It’s a wonderful thing to be privileged to witness.

I know he will fail at things in life or just not be good at some things he tries, but I hope he never lets those things get him down.

He was by far not the most talented tot in the class (his beam work made me giggle. Grace and balance are not among that boy’s gifts), but he DID it without quitting or being afraid.

I wish I could somehow make that feeling of pride stick with him through everything he attempts. One thing is for sure, he will always have me sitting there on the sidelines clapping for him…and snapping pictures.