The First Time You Paint Her Toenails

selah toenailsIt happened last week. We sat on the bathroom floor together. She squirmed in my lap, and pulled off her socks one by one. And I picked out the only color I had…for a brand-new two-year-old: light pink.

The novelty of nail-polish, Mom’s nail-polish, kept her little feet squirming. I tried to steady them in my hand, and even when I’d whisper in her ear, “Hold still,” her toes still wiggled a little bit. I carefully painted the pretty color on each tiny toenail. Amazed at how small each one was. And as I did, something happened.

Something happens the first time you paint her toenails. It only happens between mothers and daughters I am sure. I can barely name it. But as I painted her nails, I felt I was doing something much more grand, and I think she felt it, too.

It was almost too delicate to put into words. But it was as if I were showing her, her wings. Showing her the way to beauty. And soon tears filled my eyes. It was as if I realized all at once–she was going to grow up into a woman.

A beauty.

I can see her sitting before me in a white gown before the ceremony. And I’m buttoning silk buttons long all the way up her back. I’m helping her pin up long, loose wisps of curls. I’m down on the ground, painting her toenails…and remembering: this. This day, when I first painted her nails, when they were so tiny. And her feet squirmed. And her toes wiggled. And I will want to take her in my arms and whisper once more in her ear, “Hold still.”

selah toenail 2

I push the thought away, of the day she will fly away from home forever. And who will she fly with? It pushes back. Who would ever be worthy?

I see the way she already wins attention: effortlessly. Her bright blonde hair, and big ocean eyes, her long dark eyelashes, and pixie-like features. I know she already is: a beauty.  A creature like I’ve never seen.

Yesterday, a little boy in the booth behind us, would not stop standing up and calling for her attention. She turned, and stood, too. And then they just smiled at each other six inches from one another’s face. He reached out one finger, just wanting to touch her. And she reached hers back. They both giggled when their fingertips touched. Was this toddler love?

I think mothers see it long before we ever want to admit. The grandeur of raising a daughter. Of raising up beauty, in it’s purest form. A beauty that will one day take on a life of her own, and find the comfort of another man’s arms. A man who will never seem worthy of her…

Only because you saw her, in a way he never has. You saw her at her most delicate state. You cradled her when she was just a fragile bundle on your chest. You rocked her long hours in the night, and let her tears bleed into your shirt. And you remember the first time you painted her toenails. And the way you trembled at the beauty of this little girl. And tremble still.

And you will cry, with hot tears streaming down, not because of how beautiful she looks that day. But because of how beautiful she has looked every day since the day she was born.

selah toenail blanket

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  1. Bekah, I’m dying to meet you for coffee and talk about this crazy/scary/amazing thing of motherhood that I’m only a month into! Even though I won’t be painting Micah’s toenails I can totally relate to those feelings of total amazement at what a precious gift our little ones are. Trusting God with him is so hard. But then I’m soo incredibly grateful to have such a trustworthy God. Anyway, let’s talk soon friend! And keep writing what’s on your heart, please! 🙂

    • Kathleen,
      Yes! If only we could meet at the coffee shop like we used to. 😉 I miss you friend. And I look forward to hearing all about how you are doing as a new mom! It’s like a totally different world, right?? I want to hear all the details!! Been thinking of you often. 🙂

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. I have 2 little girls ages 4 1/2 and 3 years old. Just this past week I let them paint MY fingernails and toe nails for the first time and it was something I will always cherish. Just seeing the joy it brought them to get to decorate my nails however they wanted was so special. They were giddy! I thought to myself “why have I never let them do this before?” And realized it is probably because I tend to be such a perfectionist and couldn’t imagine my nails being all messy. It was actually a very freeing thing for me. I kept my nails just how they painted them for several days and it made me smile every time I would look at them. We have been entrusted with such precious little beauties. 🙂
    Thanks again for sharing your heart. I love all your posts.

    • Michelle,
      Oh, I love the image of them painting YOUR fingernails. That is one that I look forward to in the future! I can only imagine your hands were painted pretty well too. 😉 Thanks for reading and I’m glad you can relate. I don’t know what it’s like to have a son, I’m sure there are glories to be had there also! But, I just know there is something very precious and delicate about raising a daughter. And I feel beyond blessed to have this privilege and responsibility! I’m sure you do too. 🙂

  3. Rebekah, when I read this it brought back all the memories and emotions of the first time I painted my daughter’s toenails. I know exactly what you mean! This was so beautiful. Too bad we couldn’t keep them our little girls forever. I think I am going to go paint mine’s nails right now!

    • Sasha,
      Yes, I hope you do paint them! I’m sure she will love it. (And you will also be adding some color during all this snow!!:) Selah loved her toenails so much, she tried taking off her boots and socks everywhere we went to show people. (lol.) I too wish I could keep her like this forever, but then I think of all the joys ahead of her as she grows. I hope she one day gets to experience the joy of motherhood. I’m sure you have had many moments in awe of your daughter’s beauty, and there will only be more to come.

  4. This brings a flood of emotions. My one and only daughter in this sea of boys, Sarah, is high-functioning autistic. When she was Selah’s age, her sensitivities made nail-clipping, never mind polishing, an hour-long affair after which we were both emotionally exhausted. I think it was when she was six or seven we had a breakthrough with the clipping and she began to ask for polish as a reward for being still. I only had some sparkly red leftover from the days I had time to do my nails, but it was perfect to her, and I darn near couldn’t see to polish through my happy tears. Now nine, she still adores her sparklies, has added the occasional lip gloss to her repetoire, and grows into more of a beauty by the day. Thank you for drawing such a lovely picture here of that special mother-daughter bond. 🙂