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A letter to my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful daughter

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helena.beauty

My little beauty. And me.

Dear Helena,

One day when you were a baby, Aunt Tina and I were smooching all over you. After all, what’s better than kissing a baby – all that smooth, perfect skin, those rolls of fat, all that love that just oozes out of them? Kisses and kisses and kisses. “We’re giving her extra kisses now so she can store them for times in her life when she might not have as many kisses,” Tina said. That was exactly right.

Now you are nearly 5 and you rarely let me kiss you like that any more. But, as you know, I like to tell you every single day that you are beautiful – for much of the same reason. Helena, I hope you read this when you are 14, and 24, and 44 and 84. I need you to know that you are beautiful. Because you are.

I was involved once with a man who let me know that he did not find me beautiful. When we first met he told me how it bothered his ex-wife that in the decades they were together, he never once told her she was beautiful. “She just wasn’t to me,” he said with a shrug. “Sure, she was cute. But not beautiful.”

How strange, I thought. How absolutely cruel.

From then on I was acutely aware of his miserly use of that word. On the one hand, he used it freely when describing past lovers or starlets. Yet every single compliment about my appearance from this man became an insult. There were an abundance of words of admiration, yet every, “You’re pretty today,” and, “You look summery in that dress,” became nasty, digging reminders that I was not, indeed, beautiful.

I see now that he was mistaken.

Helena, here is what I need you to know: To this day I carry a shame with me for two things related to that chapter:

  1. I started to feel ugly. That was my choice. No one allowed this happen but me. But I did.
  2. I stayed.

Helena, in your life you will meet many men, and some of them will not find you pretty at all. And maybe you aren’t to them – and that is totally fine! Who cares if they don’t like your appearance? Such things are but a matter of taste. But let me tell you something – you are so, so beautiful. It is not your big, curious brown eyes, those incredible eyes framed with magnificent brows and impossible lashes. You are not beautiful because of your dashing smile, the poreless olive skin or that elegant, mysterious triangle of small beauty marks that spot your face.

No, you are beautiful because of that thing – that perfect thing inside of you. It is that same thing that is in your brother, and in snowflakes, and when you and your friends laugh on the playground, or when the morning is quiet for a moment and we see the pink and blue clouds above the city. It is inside of me, too. And it is something bigger than you and me. God? Love? The Universe? All of those things – and other things. Things that do not have words.

And when some man lets you know that, no, sorry, you’re really great and all, but you are not beautiful, you need to know that has nothing at all to do with you. Not one thing. It has something to do with that man because he cannot see. And because you are beautiful you will be kind to him – because in all your beauty you will have that kindness and love to share.

And then you will go.

And you will find someone else, or you will be alone. But no matter what, I hope you know always – effortlessly and unconsciously – that you are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

All my beautiful love and more,

Mommy

 

  1. Ms. Single Mama
    Ms. Single Mama01-07-2013

    This is incredible!!! Thanks for writing it for your daughter and all of us…

    • Emma
      Emma01-07-2013

      Thanks Alaina.

      • Whit Sheppard
        Whit Sheppard01-07-2013

        That is a powerful piece and I feel exactly that way about my 4-year-old daughter, who lights up my life daily, and for whom I wish life’s very best. We watch an empowering video for girls (Google “I am a Princess”) that gives me goosebumps when we watch it. Check that out.

        I read the part on your blog about your marriage being affected by a brain injury, and I wrote a lengthy magazine piece in 2012 about just that—in this instance the effects of cumulative head trauma sustained from a long football career. You may find it interesting or validating in some way: http://www.richmondmagazine.com/?articleID=bee5adc129cac76ece125379ada26744

        I think what you’re doing with your blog is really neat…

        • Emma
          Emma01-07-2013

          Hi Whit – thanks for your sweet words. Can you check that link or email me directly emma@emma-johnson.net ? (it didn’t come through). Thanks!

          • Whit Sheppard
            Whit Sheppard01-10-2013

            hi Emma,

            the link to the brain trauma piece I wrote is currently operational, so to speak. I just clicked on it and it took me directly to the article.

            cheers…

  2. Honoree Corder
    Honoree Corder01-07-2013

    Beautiful! (You and the blog post.) Can’t wait to see you!

    xo H.

    • Emma
      Emma01-07-2013

      Thank you and looking forward!

  3. Irene
    Irene01-08-2013

    Great post by a beautiful lady!

    xoxo
    Irene

    • Emma
      Emma01-08-2013

      Aw, thanks always for your support Irene!

  4. Emma
    Emma01-08-2013

    I received this note from someone I went out with a few weeks ago. Thought I’d share:

    Just thought I’d write and say hey. I have looked in on your blog a few times. (Not to make sure I’ve escaped mention.) Don’t think I’m your demographic, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read. Especially the recent letter to your daughter. I have been writing occasional letters to my daughter over the past several years — on birthdays and other times – putting them in envelopes and tucking them away in a folder. I hope they will mean something to her some day. Anyway, I really did like yours. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re way better than “summery.’ Had fun meeting you, although I am considering retiring my John Travolta imitation. Best, Mark

  5. camillejohnson
    camillejohnson01-11-2013

    Such a beautiful letter, Emma. You make me prouder each day. You are so much more mature than I every will be. I wish I had told you more how much I love you, how beautiful you are insideand out, and how much I admire you, and how proud I am.

    You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, . . . ! ! !

  6. Emma
    Emma01-11-2013

    Aw, thank you Mom. You did tell us all the time that you loved us — till today. Love you, too.

  7. Debra
    Debra01-16-2013

    What lovely sentiment. Just want to point out that you make an assumption that Helena is heterosexual and that she will have a male partner. That might not be the case!!!!

  8. Emma
    Emma01-16-2013

    Of course Debra. Duh.

  9. Karen Kataline
    Karen Kataline01-20-2013

    “Beautiful, Beautiful, but Not if You’re Fat.”

    I loved this letter. How ironic that the hatred which surrounds “fat” and obesity in this country never benefits from such positive expressions of acceptance. Fat hatred which is often couched in “…but it’s for your own good” has ballooned to such proportions that many are called fat even when they aren’t, as the highest form of insult.

    A positive body image isn’t necessary for just some. It’s a necessity to affect any lasting change in one’s own body, whether it is to lose weight or to tolerate an “imperfection.” Everyone’s entitled to disapprove of course, but wouldn’t it be great if people recognized more readily, that people come in all shapes and sizes and forcing them to fit into proscribed dimensions is really not their business?

  10. Melissa Pazen
    Melissa Pazen01-22-2013

    Dear Emma,

    I thank God (feel free to submit your name for the energy that created this universe) for women like you; who become aware of something and not only change it in themselves. Your letter to Helena is beautiful and your willingness to be vulnerable shows your amazing strength.

    A link to your blog was posted on LinkedIn’s largest parenting group: Parenting 2.0. As many as 2,500 additional people have seen it.

    Please accept my gratitude. You, indeed, are very, very beautiful and I’m delighted that you know it AND are raising Helena to know it.

    Best regards,
    Melissa Pazen

    Inspired Coaching, Melissa Pazen
    http://www.melissapazen.net

    Live inspired: pray continually; think boldly; act deliberately; behave kindly, humbly, mercifully; love unconditionally; forgive easily.

  11. Emma
    Emma01-22-2013

    What a lovely note, Melissa. Thank you. And thanks for the note about Parenting 2.0 – great news!

  12. Alden
    Alden02-07-2014

    Emma, I’m a father of two girls (three and five.) I’ve read this letter again and again since last year and continue to come back as you capture so eloquently what I’ve tried to put into words for my girls. Thank you for sharing this tidbit of your life, of your love and how you see people. It’s gripping and wonderful. I wish both you and Helena laughter, courage, warmth and an openness to the beauty in all. Be well.

    • Emma
      Emma02-09-2014

      Alden – thank you so much for these kind and authentic words. Your daughters are fortunate to have such a thoughtful father. All the best to the three of you.

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