Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bigger Picture Moment: Wide Open Paths

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Together, we stood in front of her illuminated closet, searching for the perfect back-to-school outfit.  Mia was fresh from the bathtub, warm and sweet in her nightgown, and she knew exactly what she wanted to wear the following day: a soft denim dress that cast a silvery sheen in the half-light of the bedroom. 

She laughed in a quick, tinkling way, laying the dress out -- just so -- before deciding on the perfect shoes and ruffled socks.  She was ready.

I headed to the other bedroom with Lauren, knowing exactly what to expect: she'd undoubtedly pick the frilliest dress she could find.  Something cool and light, colorful and bouncy.  I steered her towards a new dress I'd been saving for just this occasion.  Its pink and cream checks and ruffled A-line waist would satisfy her pretty-girl needs, and the fact that it was new was sure to be in its favor.  Strangely, she pushed it aside. 

Having my plans and expectations thwarted didn't bother me, I just dreaded the undoubtedly long search we'd now have for the right dress.  For I knew it would be a dress.  No question -- she's been demanding dresses for months now.  And I knew it would also be a hard-won find, because as a full-fledged 2-year-old, Lauren's indecisiveness is abundant.

But for the second time that night, I was wrong.  On both counts. 

1. She immediately chose, and

2. She immediately chose a non-dress item.

"Mama," she squealed, "I wanna wear my jumper!" 

My mouth dropped open.  This jumper -- it's the most darling thing she owns.  A blue and white denim stripe reminiscent of traditional train-conductor overalls, cut down to the sweetest one-piece romper you've ever laid eyes on.  The waist is gathered with a tiny white bow and the top is adorned with a row of ruffles over a line of chunky, round buttons.  My heart skipped a beat the first time she wore it, but her own reaction was altogether opposite.  That day in May, shortly after I'd found the jumper (romper, whatever), I forced her into it against her dress-loving will.  She tore at the straps, tugged at the waist, picked at the legs, and hated it.  I assumed that one day was all I was to be allowed with this darling outfit, and sighed each time she refused it for the rest of the summer.

Because believe me: I offered it at least 4 times a week.  Hoping she'd wear it again before it became too small. 

You can imagine my confusion when against all my expectations, she finally decided to wear it.  This shorts-bottomed one-piece.  This non-swirling one-piece. 

I quickly rearranged my face into the picture of nonchalance.  "Alright sweetie," I muttered.  "I'll lay it right here so it'll be ready for the morning."  Above all, I didn't want to break the spell and have her change her mind.

She bounded off to bed, as pleased as I'd ever seen her. 

It hit me, then: my expectations are not the end-all of childhood happiness.  The paths I choose for my daughters might actually limit them, while the paths they carve for themselves are bound to be creative and interesting.  Today, it's my assumption that she'll wear a dress, but tomorrow....maybe it's my assumption that she'll be a reader instead of an athlete.  A wall-flower instead of a butterfly.  Highly ambitious instead of quietly content.  Whatever path I think they'll take, they have the power to surprise me, to delight me, and to grow into their own selves.

And I just hope it's always as easy for me to love their choices as it was this time. 




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13 comments:

  1. I squealed when I saw Lauren's outfit in your back-to-school post -- squealed. It's adorable, and I'm so glad she chose to don it at least a second time for her mother's eyes :D

    Honestly? None of my boys care at this point what they wear from day to day (although I receive hearty enthusiasm if I happen to choose a shirt adorned with dinosaurs or any type of vehicle).

    But back to the point: You are so right about how our children can completely topple what we think we know about their personalities. Eli was the calmest, most unemotional baby we've had so far; we were certain he'd remain so the rest of his life- "Our quiet boy", we told each other confidently. Imagine our shock when he blossomed into an adventurous, LOUD toddler! Who knows how our wee ones will continue to (pleasantly) surprise us? :)

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  2. what a beautiful post. She looks adorable.

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  3. Exactly! Why does it get harder and harder for parents to celebrate their childs choices as that child gets older? I often find myself reveling in every stage so much more than I ever did before, and it breaks my heart when I catch myself correcting my 3 year olds harmless choices, and cheering my baby's choices simply because she is a baby. I never want to get stuck in that spiral.

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  4. I have to remind myself of this all the time. My choices are not there choices. My desires not theres. I need to stand back and let them learn so they can grow. It's especially hard when my daughter has a closet full of adorable things and wants to wear her brothers old shirts and mismatched pants! :-)

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  5. Thank you for this reminder that we are to let our children be themselves...after all, that's exactly who they are meant to be. And your children are quite wonderful little selves.

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  6. Lovely, both her and this story. It's hard to recognize their indivdiuality when they are still so young. But they are, aren't they? Perfect and wonderful and flourishing little individuals. Sometimes it makes me breathless.

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  7. What a gift for your children - the recognition that their decisions, even when they go against your suggestions, can surprise and delight you

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  8. Oh my goodness...that IS the cutest little jumper! I have certainly come to find that the minute you think you know your children, they turn it all upside-down! Thanks for the reminder to let them be them...even if it changes by the hour!

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  9. Look at her!!! What a cutie pie :)

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  10. precious! i just love how they can surprise us, even when we think we know them so well:)

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  11. I LOVED this! Exactly what I needed to hear as I prepare for back-to-school with a sweet seven-year old fashionista!

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  12. I admit, I have gotten better about this after 4 kids. One wants to wear a dress and one wants to wear soccer shorts and an old t-short - okay, it's not the end of the world. They do need to learn how to make their own choices, and we need to learn to back off a little and let them!

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  13. I noticed that jumper from your previous post and took a mental picture because it's just so cute!
    I love it! - and I love how darling your girls looked on their first day. How fun!

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?