You Think Salad Is My Favourite Food?

The Eye Opening Lesson I Learned While Teaching My Daughter She Is Good Enough

There is a mirror by my front door right beside the rack where we hang all the keys. I pass by it every morning when I leave the house. And somehow, every morning, in the rush to get my daughter to school, without me ever really being aware of it, I have made a habit of giving myself a final inspection on my way out. A last look to make sure I am presentable enough for the world.   

One day, during our usual mad dash to make the morning bell, I'm engaging in my subconscious custom when I hear a little voice, "don't worry, you look great, mom." My daughter is standing behind me. I glance up to catch her eyes in the mirror, and it's only then I register the look on my face, the look my daughter must have seen when she walked in the room. I am looking at my body with what I can only describe as a cross between disappointment and resignation. I quickly fix my face, give her a wink, and tell her to get her tail in gear before we're really late for school.

That very day, we empty her backpack after school, and she proudly holds up the book she has made for me in class. It is titled, "I Love My Mom." In it, she has written the things she loves about me along with a list of my favourite things. I read through it with that intense cocktail of pride, soppiness, and awe you feel when something you have made is autonomous enough to make something on their own for you. The tears begin welling up when I land on the page where she lists my favourite things:

Favourite colour: green.

I smile to myself because it's true.

Favourite Flower: my mom likes eucalyptus better than flowers.

I laugh out loud, eucalyptus is very misspelled, but this answer is still weirdly correct. 

Favourite food: salad.

She thinks my favourite food is salad? 

"You think my favourite food is salad?" I ask her as she searches through the cabinet for cookies.

"Yes," she answers simply, "it's the only thing you ever eat."

My mom wears her makeup to bed, she has done this my whole life. My siblings and I actually used to joke about it when we were younger. We called her Tammy Fay and laughed about our weird mom applying concealer before going to sleep. Of course, we didn't know the sad, deep-seated insecurity from which this was born. And, of course, she didn't know the deep impact her "silly" practice would have on her young daughters. My mother was simply modelling the lessons she had learned from her mother (explicitly or not), who had learned the lessons from her mother, who had learned from her mother before her, and so on and so forth; I am not sure exactly how far back my family goes as I refuse to do a 23andMe, but you get the idea.  

I was aware enough of this pattern that when my daughter was born, I began devouring articles on how to raise strong, healthy women, hoping I could at least try to break the cycle. I played "The Handmaid's Tale on Audible when she was napping, hung up a "though she be little she is fierce" print in the nursery, and made lots of plans.

I told myself, "She will hear that she is strong just as often as she hears she is beautiful. She'll have a healthy relationship with food; she won't berate herself after every dessert. And most importantly, she will know that she is good enough just on her own."

I knew none of this would happen by itself and that pop culture, societal norms, and, honestly, most of history were against us. So, I doubled down on my research, swearing I would do whatever work necessary to ensure my daughter grew up feeling better about herself than I did. And after reading article upon article, I was surprised by what I found. The biggest takeaways from my reading centred around leading by example and modelling the lessons I wanted my daughter to learn in myself. In essence, to be a better mother to her, I needed to be a better mother to myself. And while this made a lot of sense to me, it was much easier to read than do. Still, I made notes and rules and formulated a plan. A plan that, up until that very day, I thought was going reasonably well.

I work hard to say the right things to my daughter so that she hears me say the right things to myself. But it's becoming increasingly clear that while I can stop myself from saying and doing certain things, I cannot stop myself from thinking them.

A study from psychologists at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, suggests that the average human has 6,200 thoughts per day. While the researchers couldn't determine the contents of the thoughts, I can assume, based on my day-to-day psychic experience, not all of them are exactly pleasant or welcome. And I am guessing many of them are rooted in things we picked up in our youth.

Since my daughter's birth, I have spent years trying to restrict what I do and say to better align with the person I think should be a role model to her. It never occurred to me that what I really need is to give myself the grace necessary to become that person and that the same things I wanted for my daughter, I still wanted for myself. 

To hear that I am strong just as often as I hear I'm pretty. 
To have a healthy relationship with food and not berate after every dessert. 
To know that I am good enough just on my own. 

And most importantly, when I leave this Earth, for my daughter to damn sure know my favourite food is not salad.  


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Brynne MacEachern is a California-based writer, stand-up comic, and co-host of the podcast Love These Mother Daughter Talks. She recently co-wrote a picture book with her 6-year-old aimed at parents with shared custody of their kids called, "Your Kid is Coming Back: a Feel Good Reminder for Parents with Shared Custody" which you can also buy on Amazon.