Over the past year, I've really tried to instill the value of inner beauty in my preschool daughter, because she is already being bombarded with images and advertisements of our culture's emphasis on physical beauty, and it's only going to get worse. With princesses and Barbie dolls and magazine covers and makeup commercials, her little brain is already subconsciously soaking these things right up.
So while I'm getting ready in the mornings and she plays dress up with mommy's scarves and high heels and puts on pretend blush and asks me if she's beautiful, I look her in the eyes and gently tell her, "Of course you're beautiful. But you know what? You don't need fancy clothes or makeup to be beautiful. You care about other people and do the right thing, and that makes your heart beautiful. Having a beautiful heart is what's most important." And I give her some variation of those words every so often so that maybe my words will creep into her sweet little heart for some time in the future when she inevitably begins to question her beauty.
Well, this week my daughter and I are both celebrating birthdays, and yesterday my parents treated us to a mommy-daughter date at the nail salon. My little one was insistent upon having gold sparkles on top of pink nail polish to be extra festive for her birthday party, and she is so proud of the results.
Then, today we were sitting in the allergist's office, and I notice that my daughter is picking at the nail polish on one of her fingers. I quickly tell her, "Sweetheart, please don't take off your nail polish. We want to keep it nice and pretty so it will be beautiful for your birthday party."
She stopped. Getting a serious look on her face, she gazed deeply into my eyes. Gently, her voice barely above a whisper, she said to me, "But Mommy, my fingernails don't have to be beautiful." Very still, she paused. "My heart is beautiful."
And I stopped--closing my eyes--almost dumbfounded to hear those words coming from her like that. My husband and I just looked at each other, unable to speak. I just looked into her eyes, smiled, and I quietly said, "you're right." I'm honestly still speechless.