Parenting teaches you a lot of things. Like how much you value alone time. How to love unconditionally. What your own parents must’ve felt all the time. How to be overly specific in directions so that no confusion can be possible. Who am I kidding? That last one never happens. But nonetheless, just when you think you have reached adulthood and have all of this wisdom to impart upon the apples of your eye, BAM! They turn around and teach you more than you ever realized they would. This week has brought with it some particularly valuable lessons from my oldest, double-dose-of-independence-daughter, Aubrey.
Earlier this school year, Aubrey had pictures for PreK-4. Excited about the opportunity to dress up and smile pretty, she and I set out on a shopping adventure to find the perfect outfit. And perfect outfit we found- a teal green and white striped turtleneck swing dress with the cutest brown floral belt. She would top it off with her favorite pair of boots. Not only did she have the perfect outfit, she also had the chance to show off her new bob haircut. All was right with the world.
Fast forward one month to the day her pictures came home in her folder. We went out to eat that night as a family, so I had to wait until right before bedtime to see her pictures. I had seen all of her cousins’ beautiful pictures posted on Facebook, so I knew they were sitting at home in her backpack awaiting my oohs and aahs. Imagine my shock when I opened the folder to see the adorable smile I recognized, the perfect teal and white stripes on the turtleneck we had picked, and a foreign plaid headband I had not purchased for her nor planned as part of picture day holding her hair back from her face.
Confused by the added accessory, I called to her and asked why she wore the plaid headband in her picture.
“I wanted to, Mommy.”
Immediately, I called my sister to ask when retakes would occur. In my mind, she had to take new pictures as the plaid headband messed everything up. After all, I spent $40 on these pictures, and she would forever be remembered in the yearbook as the little girl who wore the headband that didn’t match her outfit…and she possibly stole (I’m still not sure where it came from).
Now, let me pause for a second to add, she is absolutely beautiful in the picture- mismatched headband or not. The part that posed difficulty for me was that she had added to our perfectly planned outfit- without asking me.
I think as a working mom, I experience guilt that I probably shouldn’t but do nevertheless. I leave every morning before she gets up and goes to school. We do hair and lay out clothes the night before, but sometimes bedhead happens, and I’m not there to fix it. Sometimes, I get caught up in working late and forget to check her folder, missing the announcement that she is responsible for snack this week, and our pantry is bare. I don’t take her to school or pick her up from school. Working moms often have to miss Thanksgiving parties and Christmas parades and Pumpkin Patch activities and field trips. This school picture was one more reminder that I don’t get to be there all the time.
As our family gathered this weekend as we so often do, the pictures came out and everyone loved Aubrey’s precious smile. What they loved even more was the story behind the headband- how totally Aubrey to find a way to add her own stylistic flair to what Mommy had planned for her. That’s when it hit me. I had been so caught up in the “imperfection” of the picture, I had failed to notice the statement my little one was making. She wanted to wear the headband, so she did. She didn’t give it a second thought. I was the problem in the equation, not her (or the headband).
Therefore, no retakes are in our near future. Her pictures are absolutely, perfectly Aubrey.
I would love to say that after this, I won’t stifle her independence ever again, but I don’t think I could make it through that statement with a straight face. However, I am working on it. I am working on understanding that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” by some arbitrary standards all the time. If I stopped thinking about how many things aren’t “perfect,” I would realize just how many things are.