Tomorrow is picture day at school.
I hate picture day with all I am, and all I will be.
Each year, I spend a ridiculous amount of money for school pictures, of which I give away just a couple. It just never occurs to me to carry around pictures of my kids to give away. It almost seems like a bit of an odd tradition, considering we now have cell phones with amazing cameras where we can take spontaneous, candid, amazing photos. Still, I shell out a stupid amount of money for my children to force a smile and inevitably not look quite like themselves, and me to get documented proof of this. Yet that’s not even why I hate picture day.
Picture day is a day where we break out of school uniform, and somehow that makes it seem a bit more special. On top of that, I have a young daughter who loves clothing and fashion. Her style can best be described as Vegas with a touch of redneck. She loves all things sparkly, bright, and leopard print is an ultimate favorite. She also loves cowboy boots and flannel shirts. Things don’t have to match with her, and growing up if she was allowed free reign on her clothes she would look like she stepped out of a carnival. Add to that the fact she is stubborn and strong willed, we have had our fair share of disagreements when it comes to picture day choices.
This year, I decided to cave a little. I wanted to be the awesome mom. I wanted this year to go smoothly and to make that smile on picture day a bit more genuine.
I decided to step back, and allow my little girl to go pick out an outfit from the store. Her choice. She was beaming as we hopped into the car.
An hour later, I was consoling her and wiping away tears.
What set out to be an awesome bonding experience where I could allow her to express herself (and also I could learn a bit about what her style really is before the holidays roll around) turned out to be rather defeatist and upsetting.
You see, folks, she’s built like I was when I was a kid. As a little kid, I was short, stocky, and I had a little belly. I was solid. I envied those tall, lithe girls who could fit in anything and always looked stylish. I never grew that tall and frankly, I’m still a little stocky. Now, full disclosure….I’m about a size 10-14 depending on the brand and the item. I like to joke I’m a potato body. I suppose they call it an apple body. I have big boobs, a bit of a pooch, and sort of a flat butt. My legs are pretty thin, and I’ve always gotten compliments on them, but if you ask me, they don’t quite match the top of me. Now add to this the fact I barely hit 5’3. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with my body and am actually quite amazed at all it has accomplished and gone through. There are moments, however, when I get frustrated at how difficult it is to DRESS this body, because sometimes what I like is not what this body looks good in.
My daughter is petite, has a little belly and is solid. She has a little round butt I would have loved to have had when I was a kid (and would still love to have as an adult!) and of course, puberty is around the corner. Her body is strong and fierce. It does splits, handsprings, cartwheels, and balances on a beam. It stands tall in the stirrups and holds a sense of confidence on a horse. When she sits in the saddle, the horse relaxes as they feel a tiny, solid and confident little person up there. She has long, curly blond hair with streaks of the summer running through it, greenish blue eyes, and a huge smile. She is all the things I wish I was when I was her age.
Yet when we went from dressing room to dressing room, trying on all types of items and sizes, my girl felt like her body didn’t fit in. The jeans all were too long. The shirts were cropped and boxy, which weren’t flattering. If it fit in one place, it didn’t fit in another. And my sweet girl began to cry.
“Mama, I’m fat” “I’m too short, and too fat”.
And my heart shattered into a million pieces.
I try to be very careful about how I speak about myself to my kids. They often make fun of how short I am, and both have outwardly said they hope they get my husband’s height. I have always been quite unbothered by being short, and tell them so all the time. In fact, for me, I’m happy being short (except for the fact I have to find an evening gown and NONE are cut for short people). I’m usually ok about my body, and I always promote being healthy and strong over being skinny. Of course, I have had my bad moments. I got really hard on myself the other week after gaining some weight, and when I said something my husband jumped on me about it, reminding that she hears me and I shouldn’t say things like that about myself anyway, but certainly not in front of her. I sat down and had a long conversation with her about it. I explained I was upset with myself because I wasn’t treating myself well, and wasn’t being as healthy as I should. I regret my initial failure though, because I’m sure some of it stuck with her.
The girls on tv, in magazines, online and everywhere around her, well they are all sort of typecast as tall, thin, stick straight girls. Everywhere she looks, and even in the stores, the world is telling her that tall and thin is in. It’s no different that being a grown woman. The clothes are all for taller people, skinny people, and really not cut for me. She tried on item after item, and nothing made her feel great. She cried. We talked.
I explained that she is beautiful and strong. I went over all the amazing and difficult things she can do with her body. I explained how I wish I had her butt, her long beautiful hair, and her strength. I also explained how her body is gearing up for changes, and that the next year or so might get a little frustrating clothing wise, but she’ll find her element. We also discussed marketing, and how companies photoshop people.
She thanked me for taking her. She thanked me for the shirt she picked out, and we planned her outfit together. I think she was happy. I’m just sad that what could have been a great experience was frustrating, exhausting, and sad for her, as well as me.
Side note, I’m hardly on Instagram but I did find a cool page called (I believe) @beauty.false. The page shows you the unphotoshopped version and the photoshopped version of people. It’s pretty eye opening that what we see isn’t even what we are really seeing.
Now where can one get short length jeans for a young girl?
In the meantime, I hope that the positives of today outweigh the negatives, and that my girl has a big, real smile on picture day. I think she’s beautiful just the way she is.