Portraits of My Daughter.

Ever since I started learning photography, Delaney has always been my muse. At first it was because she was my only cooperative model and I just needed practice. But, over time, she and I have fallen in love with creating art together.

When my camera is pointed toward my daughter, I literally get lost in her. I become so entranced by her beauty and my love for her that it almost feels as though I blackout or that I'm in this dream-like state of euphoria. She IS my art (I did create her after all, so I mean that in more ways than one, I suppose).

There is pretty extreme irony in all of this though. Atticus said,

"never the way she looked

always the way she was

I could have fallen in love with her

with my eyes closed." 

THAT is exactly how I feel about my sweet girl. Her beauty transcends so much deeper than her looks. She is witty, bold and daring. To top it off, she is the funnest chick I know and  beams with happiness even on her worst days. She is sunshine. I love how confident she is. More than that, I love how she never feels awkward letting her weird hang out. She will dance, throw  peace signs, pop a hip and pierce me with her eyes. 

So, some may think that I am raising a girl who will be self-conscious and too focused on her looks by putting her in front of the camera so often, but I could not disagree with that more. I am empowering her. I am allowing her to be fearless and free. I would like to think that I am teaching her to be humble enough to know she is not perfect but also confident enough to say, "screw it" and know that she can do hard shit.  

The truth is, people often fear the fire in life, but I have no doubt that Delaney will become it. 

So,

here's to strong women

may we know them

may we be them

may we raise them. 

Dear Delaney: a letter to my daughter

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Dear Delaney, 

I took a photo of you this morning (like I do almost every morning). When I uploaded it onto my computer, I gasped. Sure, technically speaking, it was not the greatest photo I had ever taken-- the focus was soft, the lighting was off, the composition was weak…and yet there you were, exactly as I want to remember you always.

You are 3 going on 4 in this photo, it is January and we spend a vast majority of our days tucked inside, away from the harsh winter air. You are always coloring pictures of our family where arms grow out of heads and noses align with eyeballs…and I think they are absolutely flawless. In fact, I often brag that you're an artist. Because to me, little girl, you could make a circle and I would think it was the most creative circle I have ever seen.

I never, ever want to forget how at age 3 you would follow me around and plop down wherever I was to chat…usually about nonsense or princesses. In the photo above you are sitting on the kitchen counter --criss cross applesauce-- telling me what you want daddy and I to name your baby sister. "Ana," like in Frozen. 

I just smile and say, "maybe baby."

You are on the verge of everything-- walking along the line where your family and the outside world meet. I see you becoming your own person-- outside of us. I see your personality sprouting like a wildflower in the spring. Your heart is spilling over and overpowering those around you. You give off the sweetest scent.

I am so terrified to watch you grow up and yet I ache with pride with every passing day. I miss yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and before that. I miss being the only one who could understand your words. I miss our secret language and the way you only needed me when you cried as a baby. I was your be-all and end-all. And now, you walk away from me in a crowd without so much as a glance behind you.

I smile, and yet inside I am choking back the fear of you no longer needing me.

You always say, "I'm getting bigger and bigger and bigger" as you perch on your tippy toes and reach to the sky. I cannot help but want to stop you.

I want to always remember your baby smell. The way you fit in my arms as if you were a continuation of my own body. And now, how you still rest perfectly on my hip.  It won't be like this for long...

I want to breathe you in and remember the softness of your cheeks and the curve of your little girl nose. 

I lived 25 years without you on this earth and the past 4 years with you...and now I can honestly say that I could never live another day without you-- without hearing your voice or feeling your presence.

You are more apart of me than my own heart. No, you are my heart. My passion. My fire. My entire world wrapped up in a teeny body with snarly hair and too much sass.

Your little sister will be born in the next month or so and I want you to know that though she may need me more, I will still be here for every second you need me. You are and will always be my "best girl." No matter what.

And at the end of the day, my bed and my arms will always be warm and waiting for your presence. I will always be your safe harbor and your escape. I will always mend your tears and brush your snarls. I belong to you, my love. I have your back, your heart and your hand and I will protect them with everything I am.

I love you so much my laneybug <3

What I Want to Tell My Daughter About Her Body.

I've written about my confidence issues before, but as my daughter grows up and becomes more and more wrapped up in her appearance, I cannot help but wonder if I am making the same mistakes that my parents did with me. 

As a child, I was often told that I was beautiful. I know, I know, you're probably sarcastically thinking, oh you poor thing. But honestly, looking back I think being told that I was beautiful more often than I was smart or strong or athletic created an overwhelming need in me to be perfect. 

With time, I began to rely on my beauty. I began to see it as the only thing I was bringing to the table. It overcame me. The need to standout in a crowd washed over me no matter where I was. I always wanted to be the prettiest girl in the room because I knew that I was never going to be the smartest or the strongest or the sassiest. In fact, I was a little plain, a tad boring and insanely self-conscious. My face burned crimson red with embarrassment more often than not and one of my very best friends nicknamed me "lobster." I now wonder if the reason I was always blushing was because I was terrified of what I looked like as I spoke to others. Did they think I was pretty? I hoped so. If not, what else was I? 

When I did not feel beautiful, I did not feel whole. When I felt too fat, I would not eat. When I forgot to put on makeup, I felt naked. And eventually it sent me into an obsession about my weight; because, I thought, who was I if I was not the pretty, skinny girl? 

I've told myself so many times that I would only stress my daughter's strength and smarts and never her external beauty. I wanted to dwell on her health rather than her eating habits; and I wanted more than anything to see her eyes light up at artwork or athletics rather than makeup and clothes. 

Yet, here I am, the mother of a 3 year old who sneaks into the bathroom to put on makeup and wears princess high heals around the house on a daily basis. She will throw tantrums until she gets to wear what she thinks are the pretty tights and she wants cupcake-flavored lip glass on before leaving the house. Yeah, she's 3.

Is it something that I have done or is it just naturally embedded into who she is destined to be? I think it's a little bit of both. I believe Delaney was born to be a girly-girl. She loves tutus, sparkles and blush and would rather spend the afternoon pretending to be Lady Gaga than playing baseball; it's who she is. And I love her for that.

But I believe that I am partly giving in to how society is molding our daughters. The truth is, our society values women more for than beauty and the size of their breasts than they do for the intellect or character. And here I am going along with the crowd, as I take her picture after she puts on play makeup instead of after she scores a goal in soccer, or when I say, "Delaney, you are so beautiful" after she puts on her tutu and does the most lovely ballerina twirl. 

Not to mention, Delaney has heard me pick myself apart. She has seen me stare in the mirror as I glide my hand over the curves of my stomach with disgust. She has heard me complain about needing to lose weight, having nothing to wear and looking aged. Too many times I have put my own looks down while she stands in the next room listening. She is receiving all these messages and molding them into how she views herself. 

It is unacceptable.

My daughter needs to be told that her body is not an ornament, but rather an instrument. Her body should not be the scale of which her worth is weighed. She does not need to strive for perfection in boob-jobs and botox. I would never want her to feel the pressure of having to be the prettiest or skinniest girl in the room; because at some point, looks fade and what is left is wisdom. I want her to be wise. I want her to strive to be the smartest, the most well-read, and the most traveled. I want her to use her body to run marathons, play sports, explore the world, and seek creative outlets. 

I want her to expect more of herself than I ever did. I want her to know that her insides are so much more valuable than her outsides.

So, it is okay if my daughter pursues her love of Ballet; but I want her passion to lie in the art form rather than the buns and tutus. And when she gets off the stage after her first performance, I am going to say, "Delaney, you are so talented."

32 Rules for Mothers of Daughters

In 2012, before my first daughter was born, I wrote a post titled, "25 Rules for Mothers of Daughters" which was my first ever post to go viral and just about shut down my meek Blogger blog from the traffic surging through it. The morning I was being induced with my daughter, Delaney, was also the morning I realized just how viral the post had gone. From there, I had numerous blogs and sites repost my words (without asking permission or giving credit) and my silly little, rant-filled blog got quite the following. Ironically, I was (literally) JUST becoming a mother to a daughter. I didn't really know too much. I just had dreams of the kind of mother I would be to her, really.

So now, almost 7 years and 2 daughters (and 2 sons for that matter) later, I decided to revisit and revise my Rules for Mothers of Daughters and add some new insight...and new rules to it. So now, here are my 32 Rules for Mothers of Daughters.

1. Paint her nails. Then let her scratch it off and dirty them up. Teach her to care about her appearance, and then quickly remind her that living and having fun is most important.

2. Let her be a cheerleader. This is a new rule for me. Gosh, did I cringe at cheerleading as a young, "tomboy" growing up. But you know what? Those girls work their butts off. So, let her prove to the world that pep is not prissy. And that wearing bows does not make you weak or girly. Let her redefine what it means to be a girl.

3. Share a large cheese with her. Never, ever, ever let her feel guilty about a night of completely vegging out, gushing over a good-ole-fashion RomCom and stuffing her face with pizza. It's good for the soul and is truly a right of passage to true happiness.

4. Let her put on your makeup, even if it means bright-red-smudged lips and streaked-blue eyes. Let her experiment in her attempts to be like you…then let her be herself.

5. Encourage her to try on your shoes and play dress-up. If she would rather wear her brother’s superman cape with high heals, allow it. If she wants to wear a tutu or dinosaur costume to the grocery store, why stop her? She needs to decide who she is and be confident in her decision.

6. Teach her to be independent. Show her by example that woman can be strong. Find and follow your own passions. Search for outlets of expression and enjoyment for yourself- not just your husband or children. Define yourself by your own attributes, not by what others expect you to be. Know who you are as a person, and help your daughter find out who she is.

7. Pick flowers with her. Put them in her hair. There is nothing more beautiful than a girl tangled up in flowers.

8. Let her get messy. Get messy with her, no matter how much it makes you cringe inside. Splash in the puddles, throw snowballs, make mud pies, finger paint the walls: just let it happen. The most wonderful of memories are often the messy ones.
9. Give her good role models- you being one of them. Introduce her to successful woman- friends, co-workers, doctors, astronauts, or authors. Read to her about influential woman- Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie. Read her the words of inspirational woman- Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson. She should know that anything is possible.

10. Give her faith. I am not necessarily talking about God. But perhaps, for you, I am (and that is beautiful too). For me and my girl, I am talking about generally giving her the belief that the world is larger than her. Much, much larger. Teach her to have faith that the universe already has everything she needs and it is up to her to go out and get it. Energy and karma is powerful. Tell her to embrace the source energy all around her and tap into the positive. Nothing good ever happened to a pessimist with a half full glass. Viewpoint and positive thinking is her superpower.

11. Be present. Be there for her at her Kindergarten performances, her dance recitals, her soccer games…her everyday-little-moments. When she looks through the crowds of people, she will be looking for your smile and pride. Show it to her as often as possible.

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12. Let her be wild. She may want to stay home and read books on the couch, or she may want to hop on the back of a motorcycle-gasp. She may be a homebody or a traveler. She may fall in love with the wrong boy, or meet mr. right at age 5. Try to remember that you were her age once. Everyone makes mistakes, let her make her own.

13. Let her choose her clothes and decorate her room. I vomit a little in my mouth when I see character bedding or shirts with giant disney characters on them. But you know what? These items are a simple, everyday ways for our girls to show the world who they are, and who they want to be. If she loves Belle and begs for her to be plastered all over her bedroom, embrace it...she is trying to define herself. Let her. Even if you swore that your kid wouldn't be that kid.

14. Teach her that healthy is more important than skinny. Women come in all shapes and sizes. If you feel good, you look good. And feeling good comes from being healthy NOT from being skinny. Let me repeat that: feeling good comes from being HEALTHY, not being skinny.

15. Tell her how beautiful she is. Whether it is her first day of Kindergarten, immediately after a soccer game where she is grass-stained and sweaty, or her wedding day. She needs your reminders. She needs your pride. She needs your reassurance. She is only human.

16. Love her father. Teach her to love a good man, like him. One who lets her be herself…she is after all wonderful.

17. Make forts with boxes and blankets. Help her to find magic in the ordinary, to imagine, to create and to believe in fairy tales. Someday she will make her 5 by 5 dorm-room her home with magic touches and inspiration. And she will fall in love with a boy and believe him to be Prince Charming.

18. Let her watch Twilight. Again, this may be an individual rule. But, as a mother of  6 year old who loves love, I want to foster and enhance that in her. I'm not afraid of the inappropriate scenes or the over-the-top intensity of it all. You know why? I want her to dream. And dream big. And believe in the impossible. But more importantly, I never want her to feel like I'm not keeping anything from her or that she can't talk to me about anything and everything.

19. Read to her. Read her Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. But also remember the power of Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost. Show her the beauty of words on a page and let her see you enjoy them. Words can be simply written and simply spoken, yet can harvest so much meaning. Help her to find their meaning.

20. Teach her how to love- with passion and kisses. Love her passionately. Love her father passionately and her siblings passionately. Express your love. Show her how to love with no restraint. Let her get her heart broken and try again. Let her cry, and gush, giggle and scream. She will love like you love or hate like you hate. So, choose love for both you and her.

 

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21. Encourage her to dance and sing. Dance and sing with her- even if it sounds or looks horrible. Let her wiggle to nursery rhymes. Let her dance on her daddy's feet and spin in your arms. Then later, let her blast noise and headbang in her bedroom with her door shut if she wants. Or karaoke to Tom Petty in the living room if she would rather. Introduce her to the classics- like The Beatles- and listen to her latest favorite- like Taylor Swift. Share the magic of music together, it will bring you closer- or at least create a soundtrack to your life together.

22. Share secrets together. Communicate. Talk. Talk about anything. Let her tell you about boys, friends, school. Listen. Ask questions. Share dreams, hopes, concerns. She is not only your daughter, you are not only her mother. Be her friend too.

23. Teach her manners. Because sometimes you have to be her mother, not just her friend. The world is a happier place when made up of polite words and smiles.

24. Teach her when to stand-up and when to walk away. Whether she has classmates who tease her because of her glasses, or a boyfriend who tells her she is too fat - let her know she does not have to listen. Make sure she knows how to demand respect - she is worthy of it. It does not mean she has to fight back with fists or words, because sometimes you say more with silence. Also make sure she knows which battles are worth fighting. Remind her that some people can be mean and nasty because of jealousy, or other personal reasons. Help her to understand when to shut her mouth and walk-away. Teach her to be the better person.

25. Let her choose who she loves. Even when you see through the charming boy she thinks he is, let her love him without your disapproving words; she will anyway. When he breaks her heart, be there for her with words of support rather than I told-you-so. Let her mess up again and again until she finds the one. And when she finds the one, tell her.

26. Instill confidence within her. There is a huge difference in confidence and cockiness. She can believe in herself without bragging about her talents or sounding snooty. And, if she believes in herself and sends only positive vibes into the universe in a graceful manner, the universe will embrace her powers and welcome her confidence with open arms.

27. Teach her the value of true friendship. Never, ever let her be okay with the petty "unfriending" that children too often do. Never, ever let her be okay with a friend who does not cheer her on and only wants to bring her down. And, with that said, never, ever let her be a friend who "unfriends" or who does not support her friends. Friendship should be jam packed with mutual respect and well wishes, if that is absent then so isn't the friendship.

28. Hold her hand. Whether she is 3 years-old in the parking lot or sixteen years old in the mall, hold on to her always- this will teach her to be confident in herself and proud of her family.

29. Mother her. Being a mother - to her - is undoubtedly one of your greatest accomplishments. Share with her the joys of motherhood, so one day she will want to be a mother too. Remind her over and over again with words and kisses that no one will ever love her like you love her. No one can replace or replicate a mother's love for their children.

30. Believe in her. It is the moments that she does not believe in herself that she will need you to believe enough for both of you. Whether it is a spelling test in the first grade, a big game or recital, a first date, or the first day of college…remind her of the independent and capable woman you have taught her to be.

31. Show her affection. Daughters will mimic the compassion of their mother. “I love yous” and Eskimo kisses go a long way.30. Comfort her. Because sometimes you just need your mommy. When she is sick, rub her back, make her soup and cover her in blankets - no matter how old she is. Someday, if she is giving birth to her own child, push her hair out of her face, encourage her, and tell her how beautiful she is. These are the moments she will remember you for. And someday when her husband rubs her back in attempt to comfort her...she may just whisper, "I need my mommy."

32. Be home. When she is sick with a cold or broken heart, she will come to you; welcome her. When she is engaged or pregnant, she will run to you to share her news; embrace her. When she is lost or confused, she will search for you; find her. When she needs advice on boys, schools, friends or an outfit; tell her. She is your daughter and will always need a safe harbor - where she can turn a key to see comforting eyes and a familiar smile; be home.

 

What rules would you add?

 

PLEASE DO NOT REPOST THIS ON YOUR BLOG WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.