“Every day, I lie to my daughter.
When I’m parked in the minivan before her school opens, she sees me tugging at my smile lines. I sigh and dig around my purse for a makeup bag.
‘Mommy, why do you put on that makeup?’
Should I tell her? That I put on makeup because I’m convinced my face is too plain without it? That the lines and creases on my face look less pronounced with a little highlighter here, and a little eyeliner there?
What does all of that mean to a 3 year old girl?
No. I lie.
‘I put on makeup because I like to play with colors. You know, like you play with your art?’
For a second I wonder if that frown had given me away. But then, she’s jabbering on about the butterfly we finger painted yesterday.
Thank God, I think. It worked.
Later that afternoon I’m tying my running shoes as the babysitter arrives. My daughter, in a princess dress with her big brown eyes, walks up to me as I head out the door. She pastes herself to my leg.
‘Mommy, why do you run so much?’
Should I tell her? Should I tell her the real reason I started running is because I hated the way my stomach and legs looked? That the true motivation for my daily workout isn’t that it makes me feel good or that it’ll help me live longer, but that there’s a deep inner disgust of my own body that drives me to chase a smaller version of myself?
So, I put on my shoes and I chase.
Is that what I tell her?
‘I run so my body can be strong and healthy. Can you show me your muscles, princess?’
She grins ear to ear and flexes her tiny bicep. Then she bounds off to the playroom with her babysitter.
Phew, I realize. That lie worked. I put in my earbuds and jog down the street.
The thing is, I hate the fact I lie to my daughter every day, but not for the reason you might think.
It’s not that I believe I should tell her the truth.
It’s that I know what I’m saying SHOULD be the truth.
I see her innocent mind asking questions, probing the world for answers. And those answers will either build her up, or they will cut her down.
But today, she believes in her strength. In her own beauty. In her own smarts. No person has given her a reason to question these things yet.
I’ll be damned if that person is me.
So I lie to my daughter, every single day. I tell her the things I want her to believe.
I won’t bring her down with my ugly truth.
No. I will force myself to rise to these beautiful lies…with the hope that maybe, when she’s a little older, I won’t be lying anymore.
Maybe, as I work to show her a better world and a better way…I’ll accidentally discover that it exists within me, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mary Katherine Backstrom. Mary’s book Mom Babble: The Messy Truth about Motherhood is available here. Follow Mary on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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