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A Picture's Worth

I’m a bit obsessed with taking pictures of my kids. I come by it honestly, spending untold childhood hours saying cheese; for awkward Christmas photos, staged at mall water fountains, on our front lawn every first day of school, traveling to Mexico (or North Austin for that matter), stacked in order of age long after it got awkward, and at family gatherings, multiple generations strong. It’s safe to say most stages of my becoming, sacred and regrettable, are captured somewhere on film.

You’d think I’d spare my offspring the same torture. But you’d be wrong, their faces now covering near every inch of my digital and physical world. It’s their fault really, adorable as they are.

This picture of Hazel and me is my new favorite, taken on a recent, first trip to Disney World. Specifically at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; a beauty salon (powered by magic, money and fairy godmothers), whose business model centers on the transformation of already perfect littles into precious princesses, resplendent with baubles, barrettes, makeup and 2019’s version of White Rain.

Never did I think I’d darken such a door, much less patronize it with my pocketbook (in this case, fanny pack). I wasn’t a “girly-girl” growing up. In all aforementioned photos, I’d challenge you to find a shred of evidence I understood the inner-workings of eyeshadow, much less a curling iron. To this day, I only have a “five-minute face” and am locked in a perpetual death match with my arch-nemesis, the round brush.

Beyond that, I have a princess problem. As a little girl, Barbie was plastic person non-grata in our home, and I only knew the Disney darlings in passing. That is until Ariel swam on my high school scene circa 1990. Even then, the allure was less kissy and frilly, and more rebellious. “Bright young women…sick o’ swimmin’ ready to STAND!” I mean, come on what teenage girl doesn’t feel the pull of that riptide?

As I matured, even Ariel became problematic. I’m not going to blame the child-mer-bride and her Stockholm sisters for all society’s ills, but it’s safe to say, upon knowing we were having a girl, I planned to fortify my kingdom against invasion from theirs. Pink could be on the palate, but only as an accent. I’d tell her she was smart, instead of beautiful, discuss nature versus nail polish and make certain she was wary of random “princes” claiming true love.

Like all the best laid parenting plans, most imploded when Hazel burst on the scene. At a mere six months, she screamed bloody murder as I took off her first skirt, picked out her own clothes by the time she was two, having to pass the “twirl test” preferable even now. She’s head over Adidas with Belle, Tiana, Jasmine, and of course Moana, Anna and Elsa, and wants all ten of her nails painted a different color. So here we are. Me with my bibbidi bobbidi baggage, and this sweet, powerful soul, more magic in manifest than I could’ve conjured with sorcery. I am unwilling to lose an iota of who she is, even if that iota is caught with a safety pin, trying to reenact Maleficent’s curse.

Of course it’s not either/or. It never is. She’s smart and stunning, fierce and flouncy. I need to check my fear and remember it’s about balance– something kiddos intuitively understand. I’ll always be purposeful, reminding her of her power and prowess, implementing healthy boundaries as necessary. And I still worry about what the world will tell my girl. But worse would be if she received any message from me that she was wrong in who she is or what she loves.

Worse still to miss this look on her face, and mine. I mean look at us. Right there is a happy girl and a happy mama (fanny pack and all). I’m so thankful for this memory. This is the mother I strive to be. The one who sees her children for who they are. One that delights in their delight, living life with, not for them. This picture reminds me I sometimes get it right. For me, and God willing them, that’ll be enough.

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