August 2019 Newsletter: Pretty is as pretty does

Dear Morgan,

Your birthday has come and gone which means that you’re a ten-year-old. Double digits, kiddo. A pre-teen or “tween” if you will (but please don’t because I hate that term). I’m constantly in awe of the fact that, in what seems like the blink of an eye, you’ve grown from a chubby-cheeked, fuzzy-headed baby to this intelligent, sarcastic, talented, and sassy young lady. If you know where the time has gone, can you please tell me?

Morgan, sometimes these letters are pretty lighthearted, but there’s something a bit more serious that I want to address right away. As you’ve gotten older, I’ve seen something happen that concerns me. You’ve suddenly become very aware of the way other people view you, and I can see you becoming more self-conscious and unsure of yourself. You frequently tell me that you wish you were prettier, and it shatters my heart every single time. I was a child who didn’t believe I was beautiful. I struggled with my self-confidence and body image so much more than I ever let on, so I know firsthand how real and challenging those feelings can be.

I’ve tried so hard to teach you that the content of your heart is far more important than your physical appearance. I’ve strived to instill in you the knowledge that who you are and the way you treat others is the truest test of beauty. Yet I know that it takes more than a mother’s words to make you believe those things. Morgan, if you could only see the way the rest of the world sees you, you would never question your worth or beauty again.

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Earlier this year, a dear friend of yours died. You’d been visiting Candace in a nursing home for the past four years, after watching a documentary about the healing power of music. In this documentary, you saw a man visiting nursing homes across the country, playing music for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and you cried when you learned how lonely some of the elderly residents of these homes are. At your behest, we began visiting a local care center, which is where you met Candace.

The two of you immediately hit it off and became fast friends. You’d take her cookies and small gifts, attend events with the residents, and simply provide company and companionship for those who needed it. You made other friends there as well, but none quite as dear to you as Candy. When she died, you were heartbroken. That’s another experience of yours that I can deeply relate to – I’ve also lost many close friends, and although I hate that you’ve felt that specific kind of pain, I also know that it makes you treasure your friendships and appreciate life’s precious moments even more. Being acquainted with death gives one the opportunity to be bursting with life, and you, my dear, are full of more life and love than anyone I know.

You’ve always had the ability to make connections and build genuine friendships with others, regardless of age, gender, ability, or anything else. You love without condition or reservation. You’ve made an effort to include and befriend kids who are teased at school. You love and care for animals to an extent that is immeasurable. You once walked down the street in the pouring rain to deliver a giant teddy bear to our neighbor whose daughter is disabled, because you knew it would bring a smile to her face. One day, you came home from school crying because you thought someone was making fun of me, and it hurt you so deeply (this was the day you learned that “yo mama” jokes actually have nothing to do with your mother). You once put gloves on, grabbed a garbage bag, and walked around the neighborhood gathering trash because “we need to be nicer to our planet.”

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Morgan, if more people were like you, our world would be a much better place. Like, “world peace, no more war, love everyone, happily ever after” kind of better. Until your hair isn’t cooperating and you can’t get it to look the way you want, because then it’s more like “watch out, everyone for themselves, hunker down and ride out the storm.” Your capacity for being grumpy and exhibiting sassiness are as immense as your capacity for love. Just another thing about you that reminds me of myself which is, frankly, terrifying.

Last fall you got a horse, which was a dream come true for you. This summer we’ve spent a lot of time, as a family, working with him and teaching you what it takes to be a horse owner. It’s a lot of work, and certainly not all fun and games (like when you get bucked off) but you’re loving it. Your current hero is Amberly Snyder – a champion barrel racer who was paralyzed in a car accident, but went on to compete, becoming the only paralyzed barrel racer in the United States. The other day, we were driving home from the grocery store and you casually said, “I like Amberly Snyder because she’s strong. I think she’s the second strongest fighter I know of.” I thought that was a peculiar thing to say, so I asked, “The second? Who is the strongest fighter?” That’s when you looked at me and sweetly said, “You are, mama.”

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I cried then, and I’ve cried every time I’ve thought of that moment since. You frequently tell me how proud you are to be my daughter, that I’m strong because of all the medical procedures I’ve been through, and that you want to be like me when you grow up. Can I tell you a secret, baby girl? You are so much like me that it’s a little bit ridiculous. But you’ve also been blessed with amazing qualities that are uniquely yours. You’ve been through a lot in your young life, but you’ve never stopped loving or sharing your light with others. You’re my hero, and if we’re being completely honest, you should know that I consistently strive to be more like you.

Oh, and one more thing. No matter what you say or whether you believe it right now, you will always be the most beautiful human being I have ever known.

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