We were away with our church's staff, their families, and college students for a weekend retreat at a camp in the middle of nowhere central Oregon. My family as well as two of our “Fun Friend” families enjoyed the sunshine and also the ability to let our kids run free and play. During the time I was packing up our life back into the multiple bags and suitcases that had exploded over the past 3 days, Princess K runs into our room.
She is crying.
I look for blood.
She is hysterical and says with breathless sobs as she begins to take off her shoes, pants, etc...”I am not beautiful, I need my tutu.”
I relax a little for the fear of something being broken has diminished, but that fear is now being overtaken by my emotional heart. I am sad for her because in that moment she really believed that her tutu would somehow make her beautiful. I begin to talk and tell her it's not what makes her beautiful...she isn't listening but is now going through her bag to find the tutu. I realize she doesn't need me to talk, she needs a hug because in her world right then she isn't pretty. (Oh have I been there before.) I hold her and she fights me to get to the tutu...
...then she stops and melts in my arms...crying.
I stroke her hair, holding her and telling her what I always tell her in her ear, “You're precious to me,” and add on, “no matter what you are wearing.”
She calms down and I get the rest of the story...she was told she couldn't marry Little K, her big brother, because, well of course because he's her brother (which all the older kids tried to explain to her). One friend who is marriage material for Little K had a tutu on and declared herself beautiful...so what's a 3 year old to think but, “I need a tutu to be beautiful and be able to marry my brother.”
She needed that tutu NOW!
She calms down and somehow I convince her that she is beautiful without the tutu and she goes back out to join the kids who are now onto another game, long forgotten the “who's marrying who” game that tore apart Princess K's heart for a moment. She shakes it off.
Or did she.
I am a little teary-eyed as I watch her join the other kids again and think about how real her feelings are. How raw. How she really believed something that was NOT true even in the least bit. I make a mental note to make sure and whisper to her more often that God made her and thinks she's beautiful just the way she is because He sees her Heart. That I think she's beautiful just the way she is because she's made in God's image.
Not because of a tutu.
How many times do little girls hear, “You look so pretty,” when wearing a pretty dress? Countless times. Which is okay, but I have to be intentional to balance out all those sweet comments with words that encourage her in who she is, her character, her personality, her heart.
I want more than anything to make her believe her tutu is not what makes her beautiful, I involuntarily flash forward 10 years in my mind where I depict I will have the same conversation with her again and again, just not about a tutu.
I want her to know and believe with all her heart that what's on the inside lasts, not outward beauty. That her “beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes...” (1 Peter 3:3)
I want her to know that having a heart like Jesus is what makes her beautiful. To desire one thing: “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of her life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him.” (Psalm 27:4).
That is easier to say than to believe, but I will spend the rest of my parenting years trying to help her to believe it...
...and myself to.