Happy 13th birthday, my girl.
There are so many letters of advice I could write as you head into this new phase of life, because you're ready and wise enough to hear it.
But there are some things I don't want to tell you.
There are some things I would rather that you see.
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I had a fancy event to attend and you had a rare afternoon with nothing to do. Your dad suggested we go to my favourite boutique downtown, so you could lend me some fashion advice (since you've already started to).
We grabbed a bunch of clothes off the racks and headed into the change room with its full length mirrors.
When I got to what I thought was a flowy dress, we discovered it was actually one of those trendy jumpsuits. In other words, the flowy dress would become a pair of short-shorts with a top half that I couldn't untuck once I put it on. But we were having fun, and I decided to try it on anyway.
You were standing in front of me, partially blocking my view of the mirror.
As I pulled the zipper up, I watched the expression on your face flicker. And then suddenly you were a dancing starfish, waving your arms over your head and jumping side to side so my view of the mirror was completely blocked.
That bad, huh? I asked you.
You didn't answer, you just kept dancing.
You were trying to protect me, I know. You were worried I'd feel bad about what I saw.
And I could have taken it off and thrown it onto the no pile. But there was something I wanted you to see.
So I stepped around you and took in the unflattering cut of the jumpsuit. I saw the way it pulled snugly across the roll of flesh that sits happily above the smile-shaped scar you used to enter the world 13 years ago.
You obviously saw it, too.
I looked for your face over my shoulder in the mirror's reflection. For a second or two, I was thirteen again. Standing in front of a mirror and wishing away parts of myself. And I knew my reaction could impact whether you wished away parts of yourself someday.
I hesitated for the tiniest of moments before reaching down and taking hold of the roll of flesh above that smile-shaped scar. I disregarded every word I've ever read about drawing attention to my physical flaws in front of my daughter, and I trusted you would understand.
Because I know what kind of family you are being raised in. I know you are surrounded by confident and powerful role models. I know I have never criticized myself or another person in front of you. I know I have shown you that I think I'm beautiful.
And I knew you would understand that a roll of flesh doesn't rob me of that beauty.
I saw it in your face when it broke into a wide smile with the same shape as that scar. I heard it as our peels of laughter filled the space in the dressing room. I felt it as I joined you in a jumpsuit-clad starfish dance.
It was there with us—the confidence that took me years to find.
I hope you never have to go looking for yours.
The contours of your body will change with the landscape of your story—never forget how much beauty there is in that scenery.
And if a dancing starfish steps in front of your reflection, promise me you'll find your way around it.
You are beautiful. And I am, too.