I wasn't wearing anything fancy. In fact, if I'm being honest I hadn't even showered that morning or the morning before that. I was standing in the kitchen wearing a pair of ripped up jeans and a flow-y top, one that I now appreciate more than ever as it hides that last little bit of kangaroo pouch that I can't seem to make disappear after two babies.
I don't mind, really, that extra squishiness. Each time that the boys press their fingers into my soft middle, I smile. I didn't always smile though. In the beginning, I would wince, tug my shirt down and quickly try to turn their attention to something else. What is with their affections for my middle place? Like moths to a flame, they gravitate there.
As I smile, I try to remind myself that the once taught skin that graced my midsection stretched and grew and stretched and grew to accommodate not one but two beautiful boys. That as my rib cage grew, my hips followed suit and grew as they grew, providing a safe and warm place that was their beginning. I try to explain to them that's where they were knit together, cell by cell and piece by piece until they were baked just right to come into this world.
I try to remind myself of the Amazing over the Squishy and it works, most of the time.
But back to the point of this post.
I wasn't wearing anything fancy when one afternoon my three year old wandered over, grasped the hem of my top in his fingers, studied it, and twirling it between his little thumb and forefinger, looked up at me, my hair all helter-skelter, not a single stitch of make up applied, standing there in the slightly messy kitchen and ever-so-matter-of-factly called me a princess.
He exact words were, "Mommy, you're a bee-YOO-tiful princess."
Just like that. And you know what? He meant it.
My first thought was, "Ha! What a silly boy! I look awful! I'm tired and I haven't showered in two days and I'm almost certain I slept in this top," but after I carelessly patted his head of thick, beautiful blonde curls and muttered a half-serious "thank you," it struck me.
I want to always see myself as my boys see me.
Because despite all of my imperfections, the things that I like least about myself, the perpetual bags under my eyes, the lack of makeup, the wrinkles that hug my eyes, the softness of my middle, the things I try so often to hide about myself, they see none of that.
In their eyes I am perfect.
I am a beautiful princess. I am the best pancake maker. The fastest Hot Wheels racer. I am the funniest teller of Knock Knock Jokes and the best Reader of Stories at bedtime. I am the prettiest Mommy and the Greatest Mommy they've ever had. Of course I'm the only Mommy they've ever had but regardless, I'm the best one.
They don't see the bags under my eyes or the exhaustion that hangs heavy on my shoulders some mornings. They don't know my pants size or how many pounds I've lost or gained or how I sometimes wonder if my husband ever misses the body of that college co-ed he fell in love with over ten years ago.
My boys love me more than anything in their whole little world despite those times I lost my patience and raised my voice. Despite the times I was The Enforcer of Time Outs and Force-Feeder of Broccoli.
I am a beautiful princess standing right there in the kitchen, a midst a sink full of dishes and two rooms above a dryer full of laundry that's on it's fourth dry cycle.
How awesome is that?
I know as they grow older there will be outside influences that will try and alter their way of thinking. Influences that will tell them I am not perfect. That beauty is synonymous with perfection. They will learn words like skinny and fat and slow and dumb. Words that sting and bite and hurt. I can only protect and shelter them so much before it is my responsibility to let them stretch their wings and move away from the protection of the one that grew their tiny bodies. That served as the place where they were knit together, cell by cell and piece by piece.
Before becoming a Mom, I thought that I would only have to worry about those words with a daughter. That I would need to be conscious of my own thoughts and words in order to raise her up a confident woman who appreciated real beauty. Beauty in imperfections. Beauty in brains and compassion and selflessness.
But it's not true. Just because I don't have daughters doesn't mean I'm off the hook.
I'm raising two little men who will one day, by the grace of God, become husbands. Not only is it my responsibility to clothe them and feed them and raise them up to be kind, respectful and successful but it is also my responsibility to raise them up to be patient, kind, compassionate men who appreciate real beauty. Who can look beyond imperfections and shortcomings and failures, giving both themselves and their partners grace for their mistakes.
Who can stand in the middle of a messy kitchen and look at their partner in life, standing before them exhausted, a little soft, a little weary, maybe wearing last night's sleep shirt, and tell them, with one hundred percent honesty, that they're the most beautiful princess they've ever seen.