I recently happened upon a quote which spoke to me.
“We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong.” – unknown
This spoke to me on many fronts. As an intelligent woman, a mother, a mentor and a strong believer in self-worth. It also spoke to my 12-year-old, 14-year-old, 24-year-old (you get the picture) self.
I still vividly recall arguments with my mother over this one simple word and its perception. Doubting if I was ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ completely based on physical attributes. I was the tall girl, sometimes lanky, other times awkward and later the ‘big’ girl (God bless the German genes).
Of course she thought I was pretty, I would tell her, after all she was my mom. Such a tormented and terrible part of puberty so many of us journey through.
Naturally as I grew older I came to learn of true beauty and not what we see in others from the physical, but what we see as we grow to know about a person. How they treat others? How they view life or navigate through challenges?
I also worked in the fashion business early in my career and was treated to the experience of some of the ugliest ‘beauties’ one could ever imagine.
Now as a mom, to both a son and daughter I feel it’s my job to ensure they embrace certain words in the English language with a positive and optimistic light. They are both tall or ‘big’ (as some like to say) kids. They will be faced by all of the same challenges I was or worse. It’s inevitable; mean people are part of life and unfortunately part of growth.
Now entering my second year, back on board as the Education Reporter, I have heard from a number of community members as well as friends on their concerns regarding bullying in our schools and how it is addressed. I can’t turn off the fact that I am a mom, with children whom attend our schools. My hope is to eventually dig into this a bit further. It’s a valid concern and deserves proper and informed attention.
For today my hope is that parents, mentors and teachers are focused on language and how we use it. Where we place our focus of importance. What we choose to highlight in conversation. What we give praise for: a perfectly looking piece of work versus an original, creative piece which may have more depth which adds to its beauty.
Personally I’m not one who is impressed by what people ‘have,’ I prefer to focus on what they ‘do.’ The go getters if you will. The people who see a problem or a need and work toward resolution. Those are the people we speak about in our family. The givers, the doers, the selfless … the true beauties of the human spirit. My hope of course is by starting this language young, my children will grow to understand the true meaning of the word ‘pretty’ when used in respect to personal attributes. A strong sense of self, to help them navigate as life gets cruel, and I know it will.
When it does, I won’t be there to step in its path and protect, just as my mom could not for me. Yet, I was taught early on that knowledge is power. So here’s to raising and fostering two young people who can stand strong in what they know to be right and true. Here’s hoping that they are surrounded by little souls that are just as kind and giving. The lesson of the power of words is an important one. A sharp tongue is a dangerous tool.
So while as parents, we can’t be accountable for the actions of others’ children, we both can and should make sure we are doing our very best to foster the best in our own. To teach them to be ‘pretty’ awesome consistently.
At least ... that’s my hope.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.