The Story of Our Scars

beautifulscarsWhat if the first lesson for girls about their bodies wasn’t modesty but contentment? What if, as the mother of two girls, I passed on lessons of loving the skin these girls are in?

For International Girls Day, I want to honor the stories of our scars. I mean our physical, visible scars but all of us can attest to the stories that are powerfully behind our invisible scars too. I think similar ideas apply to both.

My youngest has two visible, loud scars. One from hernia repair surgery. After her surgery, after the painkillers wore off and the novelty of being treated like a celebrity faded, after she grew tired of movies and wanted to play, Lucy wept into her pink and green homemade quilt.

She said, “What if nobody wants to be friends with a kid who has a scar?”

I hugged her and told her the scar was awesome. It was evidence of the miracle of science and medicine. It reminded her of intestines, which are always cool to think about. It was proof that her body was designed to heal itself. It told the adventure story of a brave little girl who now wants to be a doctor.

I showed her my scars. Lines on my knees from four square in elementary school. Slices up my shins from climbing into boats after swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti. The low line, and flap of skin hanging over it, of a c-section, from the birth of her brother. And all the silvery stretch marks of carrying a twin pregnancy full term, streaking across my belly and running down my thighs.

“I have lots of scars,” I said. “And I have lots of friends too.”

Lucy’s other large scar came from falling on a razor-sharp, jagged edge of a coral reef in the Red Sea. She should have had stitches but was miles of desert road from a hospital and now, just below her swimsuit line on the back of her right leg, she sports a red scar, 2.5 inches long and puffy, like a fat worm slithering over her skin.

Now she loves to tell the story of her scars. She finds strength there, history, humor, community with other scar-bearers.

I believe that when girls, and women, are content with our bodies, scars and all, we will honor them with the modesty they deserve. Every woman will find her own space, her own boundaries in what she chooses to conceal and what she chooses to reveal.

But if the starting point is contentment in how she is designed, her attitude toward the skin she is in will be one of pride and delight. If men decide to respond in kind, to treat her with that same pride and delight excellent. But that is not her business. Her business is to wear her body and her scars with satisfaction, deeply convinced that in her very skin she bears and owns all her stories.

*image credit Carsten Schertzer via Flickr

Five ideas for encouraging contentment (for boys and dads too)

  • No Complaining 1 of 5
    big nose1

    No complaining about your own scars or flab or big nose or knock-knees (guess who you got them from, see how they are part of your history?)

  • Honor Their Strength 2 of 5
    football1

    Don't you love when your heart pounds after a sprint during soccer? Can you believe your body is designed with muscles like that?

  • Tell the Scar Stories 3 of 5
    healing1

    Share your own scar story. Pass on the story of when Grandma fell off the bike and has a scar all the way from her thumb to the middle of her forearm. Scars bear our collective family narratives and they bear the healing.

  • Ask Pointed Questions 4 of 5
    pointed 1

    How do you feel about your body these days? Your shape, height, hair? How are people treating you? Engage her heart and her mind, dig around in there. Make it easy for her to be honest by also sharing your own heart and mind and not judging.

  • Honor Her Friends 5 of 5
    girlfriends

    Talk positively about your child's friends. Their beauty, strength, creativity, kindness, sense of humor. Set the example for talking positively about other girls and women. This photo is from a girls' tea during which the mothers spoke words of empowerment and blessing over our daughters in front of each other.

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