“I look so beautiful,” said my daughter in a voice that was not quite a whisper, but soft and filled with a mix of pride, awe, and wonder. Her voice at that moment was one of the most beautiful tones I have ever heard. I wished I could just bottle it up to play again and again. I had just played her a slideshow I created from some images I captured a few weekends ago on a stunning Sydney afternoon. It was an ordinary afternoon spent at the park – not a planned session or a special occasion. True to my daughter’s nature, she had picked a sparkly dress even though she fully intended to climb, play in the sand, throw the frisbee, and get all sorts of dirty and sweaty. Since the dress sparkled, I grabbed my camera as we left but didn’t pick it up until we were heading home. The light was amazing so we went on a little walk along the wharf. It was a walk filled with the usual six year old shenanigans – twirling in the light, playing in some water, tossing the frisbee with her brother, and playing their favourite game of Sleeping Beauty. But something about that afternoon shimmered, creating a window that allowed me to capture my daughter’s spirit – her joy, exuberance, beauty and tenderness – in a way that I don’t get to see very often.
“Of course you do,” I replied. “You are beautiful.” She looked up at me with a huge smile that literally brought tears to my eyes. I tell my daughter she is beautiful a lot. But often all those articles about how instead of saying your daughter is pretty or beautiful you should tell them they are smart or hard working or strong make me catch myself. I do tell her she is strong and smart but I equally believe that children should believe they are beautiful – both girls and boys. But especially little girls. Our culture will always put beauty on a pedestal. I want my daughter to grow up knowing she is beautiful. That her beauty radiates from deep inside. That it makes her compassionate, strong, capable, and kind. I want her to believe in beauty and how it makes the world a softer gentler place when it is used for good and not evil.
She wanted me to play the slideshow again and again. I watched her as she watched and I hoped that the true to life, candid images she was seeing of herself were being etched in her mind somewhere. So whenever she doubted herself, or felt bad, or had a bad day, one might just pop up and she’ll remember how her mum saw her on that ordinary day. And her day will rise with the smile that crosses her face as she remembers she is beautiful.
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