I just spent the weekend with my best friend and two teenage girls. We flew to Los Angeles where we immediately (an hour or so later) got in the rental car and drove directly to the Pacific Ocean to have a picnic lunch with our feet in the sand, soaking up some sunshine and watching surfers. We spent the next two days covering every inch of Disneyland and California Adventure, filling up our happy tanks, laughing till we cried, walking till we hurt, and riding roller coasters till we screamed. I heard more giggles out of those two girls than I thought possible, until I remembered that I was once a giggling girl myself.
And yet, in the middle of all the excitement and joy, there were bittersweet moments. I couldn't help remembering going through the Haunted Mansion and riding the Matterhorn with Rochelle when we were 15. I thought of friendship often as I was watching the girls, knowing that both of them are seriously struggling with self-esteem, eating disorders and more, in a way that is beyond normal for their age. But their giggles and happiness were real this weekend, of that I am sure. I can only hope that it carries them for a while and shelters them from pain as long as possible.
Although I'm not a parent, my maternal instincts wanted to do everything to make sure they know that they are worthy and loved just for being themselves. That beauty isn't in the clothes they wear, the makeup they sneak on, and in whether they have a tan or not. It's in their soul and it sparkles even when their eyes are sad. It's in the child-like joy of joining in with a Disney character who just asked you to dance on the sidewalk. It's in learning a new way to live after a parent leaves or passes away. It's in the act of volunteering at a cat shelter just because you love cats. It's in giggling and sharing secrets with your best friend, knowing that she's got your back no matter what. It's in the permagrin that comes from riding a roller coaster that made you feel like a kid. These girls have beauty that cannot be contained, I just wish they could see what I see and trust in themselves.