Last week, DJ and I went out on a lunch date. We went to Lisa’s Tea Treasures in Menlo Park. It was our first time there, and while the service left a little something to be desired, the experience was so awesome that we’ll for sure make it our special spot.
I started building up the date about a week in advance. I was super excited about it because I was sure DJ was going to love it – and she did. She couldn’t believe there were real tea cups on our table, and that they were adorned with delicate porcelain flowers and rims of gold. She was smitten with the sugar cubes and the dainty tongs that came along with them. And, there was even a cookie jar on our table – with cookies inside! It was an almost-four-year-old’s dream come true.
Upon taking our order, the server asked DJ if she’d like hot cocoa or lemonade, to which she confidently replied, “I’d like tea.” It was one of my favorite moments. Watching her from across the table as she sipped her tea, and laid her napkin across her lap, made me beam with pride. And, you know what? I wasn’t the only one beaming – DJ was looking at me with a sparkle in her eye that I rarely see. She was enamored with me. Me.
Leading up to our special date, DJ had one request – and that was for me to wear a dress. As a stay-at-home mom of two, I most usually wear jeans and a t-shirt, which is a step up from the yoga pants I lived in just 6 months ago. “Dressing for the job,” has been my motto for about four years now. But really, it’s been less about the occupational hazards, and more about my own level of confidence. It’s hard to put together a cute outfit when you’ve become a stranger to your post partum body. But, I held up my end of the bargain. I wore a dress.
The night before our date, I took three dresses out of my closet and let DJ choose which she’d like to see me in. Naturally, she chose the pink one. I had anticipated this, and had washed her favorite long pink dress assuming she’d want us to look alike. Right again. On the morning of our date, she eagerly put on her dress, and stormed into my bedroom wondering if I had gotten dressed yet. I explained to her that I was going to drop her off at school and then come home and get ready. I told her that I’d pick her up in my special outfit. She was satisfied with that plan.
I didn’t just wear the dress. I wore heels, makeup, and even figured out how the heck to use one of those donut bun-maker things in my hair. With bobby pins, hairspray and perfume – I was set. As I entered DJ’s school, I was met with comment after comment about how lovely it was to see me all dolled up. I began feeling very self conscious, and heard myself saying, “DJ asked me to wear this.” It was as if I felt the need to apologize for making such an effort to look nice. I was beginning to feel totally uncomfortable in my own skin – until my little girl spotted me.
She was coming down the slide, happily skipping around the bottom of it. She was twirling and laughing, and then stopped. A complete standstill. Her eyes fixed upon me, wide with wonder. Her smile grew from big to huge. Her entire face lit up, and in slow motion, she approached me, wrapped her arms tightly around my legs and said, “Mommy, you look beautiful.” She couldn’t take her eyes off of me – not then at school, and not for the rest of our date.
I can’t explain what it felt like to be the recipient of my daughter’s pride. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. To have this little three foot tall person whom I love with all of my heart looking at me with such adoration was beyond special. It made me realize that I might need to retire some of my t-shirts and continue putting forth the effort to look polished a little more consistently.
It’s a strange thing, though – I’m not gonna lie. In a way, it feels very conflicting. I’m a grown woman who never spent much time doing girly things. I was more into soccer than cheerleading, couldn’t dance to save my life, would wash off the eye shadow that I paid to have applied before school formals, and didn’t care for getting my nails done. I’ve never been into fashion, or labels, or even Nordstrom’s. I cried when my husband tried to buy me a Coach purse because I thought he was “trying to change me” (true story). These things just haven’t been important to me, and as a result, I’ve slumped into being the opposite of a statement. I’ve shrunken away, into the shadows of the pretty people. And, for the most part, I’ve been fairly content there.
But now, now I have two little girls who are looking to me for how to be a woman. For what it means to celebrate our femininity, along with our strength. They are Princess-obsessed (a seed I sure didn’t plant!) and wondering how to apply the fairy tales to real life. I struggle with how much value I influence them to place on looks. I struggle with raising them to think that pink dresses are what makes a woman beautiful. I struggle with allowing them to watch me put on my makeup everyday because I don’t want them to think that that’s a prerequisite for tackling the day.
It’s such a fine line, right? Showing my girls what to value in themselves by demonstrating what I value in myself. I don’t want to overemphasize anything with regard to appearance, and yet, I don’t want to dismiss it either. I want my daughters to grow up seeing me take pride in myself, because I do want them to realize the joy in being a woman. I just want to present them with a healthy balance – celebrating who we are is quite different than finding our value in what we see. It’s not an act that I’ve figured out quite yet – but one that I am suddenly aware exists.
I want my daughters to be proud of me. I have no doubt that they’ll grow to think I’m fairly cool. I mean, I’m pretty creative and I lean toward saying “yes” more often than “no.” We talk openly about almost anything, and we laugh a whole lot. They see me extend kindness to others, and they come along when I donate to those in need. We pray together, sing together and dance together. I have no doubt that they are learning the diversity and depth of my heart. But, what about the outside? The more superficial stuff? I am learning that they should also know that if a dress and a little lipstick helps them own who they are – then they should totally work it.