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  • Kerry Chaput

What a Smile Says


Before the world tells them they aren't enough

So I feel like I cruise along feeling pretty good as a mom most of the time. My kids get showered with hugs and kisses and "I love yous" and tickles and cuddles. I naively think that covers most things. Well then a day like today happens where life comes in, slaps you across the face and reminds you that your faults are on full display when you are a parent.


Over the weekend my husband and I were hard at work on finalizing my website in preparation for my book publishing. We bickered (lovingly of course) over which picture I should use. I instinctively ALWAYS choose the close mouthed smile. You know the one- perfect for selfies, does not show the age induced wrinkles at the eyes or creases around the mouth. It does not show the teeth that are not perfectly aligned. Well my husband demanded that I put up a picture with my full smile. Yep- the one that shows my actual age of 41 and all the facial changes that has come with it.


No way- I hate my smile. Which is of course an exaggeration but hey, I want to put my best foot forward without all those eye wrinkles that scream for some botox or the teeth that are looking more and more like family members I do not wish to emulate.


This conversation went on for about 10 minutes, I acquiesced and put up that damn smiling picture in all its giant glory on my BIO page. He tells me I'm crazy that I have a beautiful smile and we move along.


Fast forward to this morning. I open my 5 year old's Kindergarten school pictures and welp- they are adorable. I almost cry I love them so much. She looks so spirited and sassy I cannot wait to get them out to family.


Over breakfast she asks if she can take them over. I say, "Why would you want to take them over again? They are perfect!"


She then bursts out on tears. Like- streaming giant teenager tears that come out of nowhere. I hug her and ask what is wrong. And you know what she says? "I hate my smile."


Well there it is. The moment that I have been dreading since the moment I found out I was pregnant with a girl. I constantly worry about the world breaking her down and teaching her that she is not enough just the way she is. The thing I was not prepared for was that I would be the first one to do it to her. She might as well have cut off my fingers because I am pretty sure it would hurt less.


"Why would you say that?" I ask while hugging her and trying not to cry myself. And here is the kicker... she tells me "Because it is not as pretty as yours." Well shit. That's it- I throw in the towel. I am obviously not cut out for this mom biz because I obviously SUCK AT IT.


I hug her and kiss her and tell her she is perfect which of course does absolutely no good. She is already convinced that her smile is not enough- that she is not enough. I try and talk to her on the drive to school about how smart she is and how proud I am of her starting to read. Anything I can think of to get her out of that ugly place I unknowingly put her in.



Cut to my 3 year old who throws on a pink dress, star pants, neon rainbow socks and her sister's sweatshirt that is neither the right size nor weather appropriate. She looks at me and says "Don't I look pretty?" Yes sweetheart, you do. All I can think of is what I should never say in order to maintain her amazing image of herself.


The 5 year old perked up on the way to school as she loves it, but I sensed that little bit of ache that hung around after she closed the car door. She will be fighting that for days or months or maybe even years.


I don't know how to fix it but I can tell you that I am getting that picture blown up and framed and you know what is going right next to it? The same blown up and framed picture but with me smiling widely.

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