Monday, September 30, 2013

The line between respect and indulgence...

Effing picture day. 

If you recall, last year at picture day, they almost had to call me to come and help at school because Lucy was having a picture day breakdown.  The photographer said, "Smile!" And Lucy felt that she did smile.  But she was urged, cajoled and asked again and again to smile.  Resulting in her breaking down into tears and her teacher jumping to her aide.  At the end of the whole thing, it resulted in the above photo once they got to the group shot.  Which I will treasure forever.

So, leading up to this year's picture day, Lucy has been pretty high anxiety, asking, "What if they tell me to smile and then they don't think my smile is big enough."  I told Lucy that it was her picture and that her daddy and I are paying for it and we're fine with whatever face she wants to make.

This turned into her making a lot of pretty crazy practice faces, leading into the picture day.  I started to worry--will she roll her eyes?  Will she stick out her tongue?  I mean, I really am fine with whatever face she makes, but I don't want her to seem disrespectful either...   I told her that I talked to her teacher, wrote on the picture order envelope that she can smile however she likes...  She talked about picture day all day yesterday and into the night.  Obviously her anxiety around this is real.

But I wondered, am I indulging too much. I mean, when it comes down to it, it does seem a little ridiculous. Who cares?! Just smile for the picture for crying outside!  But my girl has boundaries and while she is a loving, smart, funny kid, she does NOT do things that don't feel right to her. 

This morning, she chose a red velvet Christmas dress to wear in her picture.  Then she asked me to cut the white fleece Santa Clause cuffs off the arms.  Fine with me.  She even brought a brush downstairs and asked me to help her comb her hair.  Then off we went to school.  As soon as we got to her coat hook, her friend came up and said, "Lucy! I don't understand why you don't just smile pretty in the picture like I'm going to!"  Tears immediately sprang to her eyes.

Obviously this is a big deal to her.  I kind of wanted to just agree with her friend, but I also was just beside myself that we had finally made it to picture day, she was feeling fine...and now we were in tears again.

Anyway, I got her situated in her room, and she clung to me and didn't want me to leave.  I knelt down by her and held her hands and looked into her eyes and told her that everything was fine and that picture day would be fine and that I'd come back and get her at the end of the day and she could tell me all about it.  In the end, her teacher had to come and hold her arm so she would stop clinging to me and I could leave.

Man, it's hard to be a mom sometimes.

And I had to wonder....where is the line between indulging her and respecting her very real and very powerful feelings of anxiety?

I know that people would have opinions about this from one end to the other.

But the truth is, I'm Lucy's mom. And I'm doing my best.  And I can only hope I'm doing right by her, respecting her fears, feelings and wishes...and pushing her to do her own thing.


  1. Dear Alie, I had a Lucy of my own about 12 years ago. She is now 17 and a wonderfully independent, beautiful, thinks for herself, doesn't succumb to peer pressure 17 year old. And she smiles, beautifully, for pictures....finally. The story you wrote above could have been my own story. Take heart. You are doing exactly what you need to do. Just love her, hold her hand and talk her off that ledge once in awhile... as you said, be her momma and love her with everything you've got. Soon she will be 17 and walking out the door too...time goes too fast. And yes, this picture is an absolute keeper. I have a few of them like this!

  2. I think a good mother is constantly debating between indulgence and being too..."just get over your bad self". A bad mother just does one or the other without thinking. You rock, Alie, and you know Lucy better than anyone!