Today my daughter is having her school pictures taken. To say that preparation for this annual event is exhausting and painful would be a total understatement. It sucks in ways that I haven’t thought about since I had my last school photos taken. She thinks I don't “get it” but she is wrong. I sooooo understand where she is coming from. Every teenage girl thinks she is ugly, or too fat, or too thin, or geeky. It's a right of passage.
First of all, my daughter is beautiful, from her impossibly curly hair to her long legs. She doesn’t see it. She never sees it. But her smile and her eyes can light up any room she enters. THEN she opens her mouth, only to have the driest, wittiest humor fall from her lips like water in the Sahara Desert. She is brilliantly funny, and delightfully sarcastic. Her comments and observations about the world and people around her are intelligent and spontaneous, and usually dead on. As anyone will tell you that has spent a half a nanosecond on her facebook page, she is a HOOT. Actually as far as her sense of humor goes, she is me, but shorter. Sometimes I worry about that.
Anyway, back to the school pictures...
Every year, we straighten her wringlets for the occasion, which involves two enormous round brushes, a blow dryer that will heat up an entire room, a lot of complaining (from her) and even more cursing (from me.) The really marvelous fact about all of this is that she wears her hair curly every day – except on picture day – so her school pictures don’t even really look like her “regular” days. This morning was no different, except for the fact that the whoever cut her hair last (she insisted on her father taking her one weekend when she was totally pissed at her hair) must have cut it with a pair of kindergarten scissors while wearing a blindfold. I didn’t realize this because normally, her hair is a mountain of curls, so you can’t really see what kind of shape it is in. I tried, I really did. I used product. I wrapped sections of her hair around a four inch round brush over and over (I’m actually quite skilled at straightening hair since I straighten mine often.) I contemplated whipping out the flat iron, but I could see my efforts would be in vain. Finally, I looked at my gorgeous girl and said “Sweetie, it’s going to have to be curly this year.” She was mortified, completely distraught and overcome with drama that her school pictures would not be EXACTLY as she expected them to be. May I add, there is little as exhausting as 12 year old female drama. I sprayed her hair down with water, applied more product and slapped the diffuser on the dryer, all the while thinking that if her hair didn’t turn out right, I’d have to shave both of us bald in solidarity...not a road I really wanted to go down. After a fair amount of scrunching, drying and flipping, she emerged from the process with beautiful spirals of spun silk that would make any woman with poker straight hair hate her on sight.
She looked in the mirror. “I look like Madonna.”
Me – “You do NOT look like Madonna.”
Her – “Everyone will make fun of me.”
Me – “If they make fun of it, it’s only because they are jealous.”
Her – “Only you like big hair, because you have big hair. Big hair is not cool.”
I looked in the mirror. OMG, was I not cool? Did I need to consider a “mom bob” and forego the groovy highlights and lowlights? What’s next? Sweatsuits in a really unflattering shade of pink and some keds? I didn’t have time to think about it. She was beyond disappointed. I assured her that her hair was enviable by any standards, but the damage had been done. She changed her clothes three times, then informed me she would not be getting any pictures, so don’t even write the check. Mark my words, these will be the best pictures of her entire school career and I won’t have one for my wallet.
Then I remembered, I always hated my school photos, every single one of them. Hell, if I ever glance at any of them again, it will be too soon. So I gave up, threw in the towel.
“Honey, if you don’t want to get any photos that is perfectly fine with me.”
For a moment, the drama and the disappointment floated away. She looked at me, and realized that her big-haired, 80s-inspired Mom really did in fact “get it.” It was a teaching moment that shall be forever emblazoned in my brain and on my heart. She’ll be twelve on Sunday, and I’m starting to think she may actually live to see her 16th birthday. Of course, that could change. She has four years to prove me wrong.
But no matter what, being her mom is the best job I will ever have. Happy 12th Birthday, Baby!