Having a baby humbles all your vanities. Whatever hang ups you have about looks, hair, bodies and brains, when your baby is born all you want is a little person who is healthy and who will one day, above all else, be happy.
You realise that all the talk about cute babies and good looking women and handsome men is a settah BS, not because beauty in all its diversity doesn’t exist, but because you have absolutely no control over what your baby looks like or what kind of hair, nose or toes she or he has or even how naturally astute or inclined to languages or music, art or sports she or he turns out to be.
You are simply making a baby who is simultaneously drawing on you to make herself. Even if you are nudging the gods with organic fish oil, prenatal yoga, positive thoughts and good food, all is still left to fate, and you can only love your child with all your heart whatever her abilities or disabilities (or different abilities), whatever her features and whatever her personality. You love, you accept, you love some more, you protect, you nurture, you start being very, very real, and you sustain it all with even more unconditional love.
You know that your child will inevitably encounter the crushing weight of the world’s expectations and most of her life will be spent simply learning to shake her shoulders free.You know that futile wish that you could change aspects of yourself just so you would be loved more by others, but most of all by you. Our children have whole lifetimes to learn about inadequacies and insecurities, the effects of a world run on vanities.
You decide to give your child every chance and all the confidence that society may not give her. You teach her to make space rather than fit in. You teach her to know she is magnificent and miraculous simply because she is, and she is yours, and somehow she chose you as hers. You learn to not compare your child to others or even your own expectations or even yourself because your ego will hold you back from the recognition of her successes, on her terms. So, you recognize you have new things to hold on to as well as let go.
You see other children that people think are smart or beautiful and you remind yourself that unless you see your own as smart and beautiful too, they will reflect your own gaze when they look at themselves. And they are smart and beautiful even if they are blind, deaf, disabled, tiny, tall, dark, mixed, taking their first steps early, learning to talk late, bad at tests or arriving at lifestages at their own pace.
Once we recognize how we are often invested in our children’s selves and successes because they can help us to measure up better in the world, we can see how easy it is to not know how to cope if they turn out to be imperfect by those standards. The first step in teaching children that they are more than adequate, they are in fact glorious, they are more than secure, they are in fact proud, is to not hide our vanities to ourselves and know that all that matters in our children’s life is their health and happiness, and our love for who they turn out to be.
I’m learning to invest in Zi’s self, her steps and her successes in a way that allows me to see who she is and what she needs rather than who I want and what I think she needs to be.