For anyone with daughters, I do believe we need to rename “School Picture Day” to “Hair Day.” Hair Day at my house has been a nightmare since preschool.
But something amazing happened yesterday. A seed I have been cultivating for years around authenticity and realness finally blossomed.
I have been steadily attempting—overtly and covertly—to convince my daughters that the whole “beauty” thing is a double-bind. If you are told you are “pretty,” then you wear yourself out trying to stay pretty. If you are told you aren’t pretty—or if you *think* you’re not pretty—then you start to believe the lie that you are less-than, and either begin killing yourself to become pretty, or say to hell with the whole thing.
I hate this social minefield we must navigate as women. We are taught to manage life from the outside in, never stopping to learn how to navigate our own wild inner landscape. I would so much rather my daughters (and son for that matter!) spend their time reading or making stuff or just generally prancing around, figuring out what brings them joy and feeds their curiosity during this brief, beautiful life we’ve been given.
To me, that is at the core of authentic living, and I believe it leads to fulfilling lives, careers, marriages even.
As part of this “authentic living” model, I tried to teach them that wearing makeup and getting hair right is too much of a time suck for us to start our day with. Instead, I’ve told them that these rituals should be saved for “key moments.” To me, Hair Day is obviously one of these “key moments,” when we put a little extra effort into our appearance. It’s why I get spray tans for vacation and pay to have my eyebrows tinted. I mean, let’s not get crazy with this whole authenticity thing.
So I asked, as I always do, “Is there anything I can do to help? I know I’m not the best French braider, but I can do a mean blow-out.” I find that strategizing before Hair Day can sometimes mitigate the extent of freak-out when the day finally does arrive.
“Nah, mom we got this. No need to help us this time.”
My fork froze midway to my mouth and hovered there.
“You guys, are you sure?”
“Totally, we’re good.”
So I went to bed the night before Hair Day feeling like a baller. I had made it. Look at me! Look at my well-adjusted daughters who understand the delicate balance between unkempt wild woman and bright shiny penny!! I felt very progressive and evolved.
At 7:20am, my daughters finally came out of their rooms to eat breakfast, and my breath caught as they sat down at the table.
My oldest daughter’s hair was wrapped up in an old headband, bun-like, dripping wet from the shower. My middle daughter’s hair was half-up, half-down and half-assed. I don’t want to say they looked like ophans living on the street, but….
Once again I offered my services.
“Nope. We’re good,” they insisted.
A wave of shame and panic hit me. Every single mother at drop-off would see this awful display, on this, the HIGH HOLIDAY OF MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONS, and all would see clearly in the light of day that my daughters were neglected, unloved, and untouched by civilized hair tools. I had to walk out of the room. They finished their oatmeal.
So I decided to sit with my own discomfort and deal. Within about 40 seconds of getting into the car, we had some Justin Bieber Let Me Love You wafting through the sunroof, my oldest cracked a joke that left us all laughing out loud, and I looked at my little boy in his booster seat with the perfect uncomplicated hair, and my two precious girls with their train wreck hair.
I felt a sense of pride wash over me, because this is EXACTLY what I wanted for them: self love, joy, humor and irreverence. And they were crushing it. In fact, the students had become the teachers. I was the one melting in a pile of social shame, not them.
So, when the pictures come back in a few weeks, instead of sheepishly hiding them in a drawer, I plan on framing them.
I want to display their pictures for all to see: My perfectly imperfect little munchkins… living their lives from the inside out, and not the outside in. I'd call that a huge win.