Will You Get That Old?

I’ve posted about beauty before—or at least what makes one pretty.  I’m reposting poetry slammer Katie Makkai’s “Pretty” at the end of this post, and you’ll know why I’m doing so, once you get to the end.  [If you’re squeamish about the “f” word, there is one occurrence.]

So.  I’m taking Liliana to school the other morning.  I’ll let you listen in.

L: Mom, why is it that our dad doesn’t have crinkles like the other dads?  [She means her dad here.]

Me (thinking What other dads?): Well, maybe those dads are older than Dad.  You know, everyone gets older.  And when you get older, you get wrinkles.

L: Are you going to get older?

Me: Yes.

[Quiet.  I look back, and she looks like she’s ready to burst into tears.]

Me (thinking of an example that might encourage her): You know Grandma?  You know how much you love her?  You know how she has wrinkles on her face?  She’s still Grandma.  She’s still fun to be with.  She’s just older.

L (horrified): Yeah, but you’ll get wrinkles like that?

Me (thinking this is going better than I thought): Yes.

L: But then if you get, like, 8 crinkles on your face, you won’t be beautiful anymore!  Will Dad get crinkles on his face?

Me (confused; this isn’t going where I thought it was going): Yes, everyone does at some point.  Our dogs will get old.  You’ll get old eventually.  That’s just the way life is.

L: But will you still be Mom?

Me: Of course, darling.  I’ll always be Mom.  I’ll just look a little older.  And no, I may not be beautiful like you’re talking about, but there’s other things that make you beautiful, too.

L (a little exasperated): I know, I know…being kind.

She’s quiet again, and we’re pulling into the preschool parking lot, where not much more can be said.

The next night, as Dan and I are putting her to bed, she asks if we we’re going to die soon, and Dan tells her that she doesn’t have to worry about that.  It will most likely be a long time from now, when we’re lots older.  [Oh, Lordy, how do you explain this to a child without scaring her?!]

“Like, six weeks?” she says.

We shower her with kisses and hugs and tell her we’ll always be her parents.  We might get older, but we’re still us.

I think she’s worried we’re going to look like trolls some day.  And we may.  But maybe it will happen so gradually, she won’t even notice.

It got me thinking anyway.  I’m not afraid of age (or the results of age), but perhaps fear comes later, when I realize people don’t treat me the same way, or I feel I’m melting into invisibility.  But then I’d like to assume my inner light will shine so vibrantly, that I won’t disappear, won’t grow “ugly.”  What I told Liliana was true.  Although we always tell Liliana she’s beautiful, I always point out the whole package—her inner and outer being.  All of it’s important.

It’s who you are, not what you look like. The hard part is knowing she won’t fully believe me, until she’s lived life a little longer…and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that.

Except model it for her.


  1. Kristi
    Apr 23, 2011

    That poetry slam was amazing. I am speechless. Wow. Thank you for sharing this.

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