“You’re pretty, Mama!” A Toddler’s Take on Beauty

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“You’re pretty Mama!” My toddler said enthusiastically the other day as I stood in the kitchen in my pj’s.
“And I’m shiny!” she added beaming.
“Yes, you are.”

It’s true that she is. She shines, despite often scraggly hair and peanut butter in her face from lunch, because there is beauty within, and it can’t help but emanate from her.

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It is said that the light of the eye enlightens whole body….children see beauty because they are filled with it, and they are filled with it because they can see and appreciate it.

We adults often fall into the trap of thinking that maturity means seeing primarily the darkness in the world, but often this cynicism is merely a defence mechanism. Instead of being vulnerable and enthusiastic, we remain critical and detached. We retreat into ourselves instead of connecting with the world.

The great British writer G.K. Chesterton wrote that there were two falls of man: in the first, man lost innocence by recognizing good and evil, and in the second, more recent fall, he fell again by losing sight of goodness and only seeing the evil.

The truth is that the world contains both. That reality is made up of light and darkness. That the tiniest candle burns away the darkness with an assurance of hope.

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We all need to kindle this little fire inside ourselves…”Carry your candle, into the darkness, carry your candle, light up the world,” sings Chris Rice.

My little one’s candle burns brightly and joyfully. She isn’t afraid to wear all sorts of finery because she is confident of her beauty. A star isn’t afraid to sparkle, and I don’t mean an egotistical movie star, but one in the sky, which can’t help but shine.

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Like a star she shares her light, and it falls upon those she sees. Recently we were playing in the grass outside the community centre where her big sisters have an art class, and we could see a class of older women dancing through the open door.

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“Look at the princesses, Mama! There’s Ariel!”

Given that they were mostly older short-haired Asian women of various shapes and sizes, this was a bit of a stretch, but a lovely one. That were dancing, and that was enough to make them royally beautiful in her eyes.

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She isn’t afraid to be herself, and because she accepts herself as she is, she accepts others as they are as well. Isn’t this the meaning of unconditional love?

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If more of us lived this kind of love, the world would be a more beautiful place…or rather, our hearts would be open to see all the hidden beauty that is already there.

So go out and sparkle: chances are others will shine in the glow of your reflection, too.

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No Elephants In The Graveyard

About a month ago, at the ripe old age of 32, I had my third driving lesson. Yup, I don’t know how to drive, yet…

I wasn’t that interested in high school; we literally lived in a village, two blocks from the lake and about four to school, so there wasn’t much need. Then I was busy working, then university, then married and having little kids, and that brings us to today.

My husband doesn’t drive either, but the bus has served us well; we have saved money and paid off tons of student loans, and have met many interesting people. However, now as a family of seven, we take up about half the bus, so it’s time we got our own.

My ‘little’ brother, whose birth I remember as an eight year old girl, and who is now a foot taller than me, is bravely teaching me to drive in his gorgeous boat of a Cadillac. I feel like a little gramma in the low, comfy seat, peaking over the wheel.

We are practicing in the graveyard near my house, as it’s very quiet, and there aren’t many people around I could actually hurt (sorry–it’s hard not to make cheesy jokes when learning to drive in a graveyard).

At the gates there is this funny sign:

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I’m getting a little more confident about the basic start and stop, making smoother turns, etc, and do ok if I relax and just feel the road. When I think too much and check mirrors 800 times/minute it gets a little tricky.

“Just be smooth and predictable,” advised my brother, “and try to breathe.”

This was working pretty well but then we added a new challenge: backing up. And then doing a turn backing up. And then figuring out what to do after hitting a small tree while backing up. Which is not gun the break, I discovered.

Oops. There went the side light.

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I immediately began to apologize.

“I’m so sorry! I can get out. You can drive. I totally understand if we’re done with lessons.”
“No, it’s fine. You can’t stop now. If you quit now you’ll be afraid. Keep going.”

I’m baffled. My brother is a 25 year old guy with a Cadillac I’ve just seriously crunched on one corner. A guy who really likes cars.

“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. It’s just a car. It’s just a thing.”

No dirty looks. Totally sincere.

“You’re awesome,” I say, thoroughly impressed. I feel honoured to matter more than the car, even right in that moment.

So on we go.

That night after dinner we have a great discussion about fear and confidence, about how being willing to take risks and make mistakes is essential to actually becoming confident. About how many fears are just phantom menaces, ridiculous things we’ve conjured up in our minds, like elephants in the graveyard.

We decide that maybe our example of confidence, despite being imperfect, is one of the most important things we can give our kids. So they can feel free to go out and make mistakes of their own on their way to doing great things.

A few days later he emails me a picture entitled “Duct Tape Victory: duct tape and a hair dryer can fix anything.”

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Despite my graveyard smash, I still like driving ok, and obviously want to improve. But my favorite part of learning to drive is hanging out with my brother more often, and getting to know him better. The little sweet toddler I remember is growing up to be quite the fantastic man, and I’m proud to be his sister. Currently, driving lessons are on hold as he’s away for some time visiting our other brother in Hawaii. I’m so happy they can be together. Important bro-time. But when he gets back, I can’t wait to chase elephants in the graveyard with him again.