When I was young, I shaved my legs every day; EVERY day. Spring, Summer, Autumn, AND Winter; every day. The media told me that having smooth, moisturized, soft legs was an important part of being pretty – and as a teenager and young person I bought into it. I believed the myth of beauty society fed me.
As I came into adulthood, I still shaved – though not with the same frequency. I spent a great deal of my time as a young adult sick and in pain… pretty just wasn’t as important when you hurt so bad that you can’t get up and down stairs without dissolving into tears. But I still shaved and moisturized. It was part of being a girl. We couldn’t have people thinking I actually grew hair on my legs.
Then I became a Mom. And yes, even then I shaved my legs. By then it was just one of those chores you do. Going swimming? Better shave. Wearing shorts or a skirt? Better shave. Just part of the self-grooming routine. Something I didn’t think about. Something I did in a rather robotic fashion, another member of the trained masses.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing these things are choices – even if we don’t always feel they are. Not all Women shave. In some parts of the world it would seem odd to do so. My daughter believed this until she was three. Then one day she laughed, astonished, at the ridiculous notion that a Woman could choose not to shave. That was the day I stopped shaving my legs.
Lily-Ann has other Women in her life who are non-shavers, my sister for one. But clearly this was something she needed to see with more frequency. It may seem like a small thing, but I needed her to know that we have a choice. We don’t have to shave. We don’t have to buy into the view of beauty that the media is selling, we can choose something different.
I may be the odd Woman out here in North America, sporting hairy legs all year long – without shame and, quite frankly, with a little pride. And yes, it may seem like a strange thing to take a stand on… but I couldn’t let my daughter grow up thinking she has no choice, that she has to go along with whatever ideals society sets before her.
She has options and choices. We all do.
Sure, I could have kept on shaving – but she shocked me out of it. Sometimes, that’s what we need. Something to shock us out of that robotic state we get lulled into. Something to bring us back into personhood. A sudden splash of cold water, a bucketfull dumped on us while we lay half asleep, lounging in the sun. Something to remind us we’re alive, and we have the right to make these seemingly small, seemingly insignificant, choices for ourselves. And sometimes, those small choices end up being some of the biggest.
There are times when everything is so chaotic in our lives that it can be easy to idealize the way things used to be. Of course, the truth is people’s lives were full back then too… but it is nice to envision a fairy tale simplicity; the not-quite-accurate bygone days. There are times though, when you stand still long enough to realize our lives really aren’t that much different. Our values are the same, as are our priorities. Okay, so that may not be true for all people, but it is for us. Family comes first. And we do everything we can to give Kid Kid as amazing and rich a childhood as we can. The holidays just tend to put the focus there, even for those who normally are too busy living to really notice.
It’s amazing how quickly life intervenes and prevents you from getting anywhere. During the two weeks Damon was home from work, we got an incredible amount done… The house boxed up and moved, beginning to set up the new place… but now that he’s back at work, we’re lucky to get a box unpacked every day. With work, school, birthday parties, and ballet recitals? It’s tough to find time for anything else.
It’s a little frustrating. I’d really like to have the house free of boxes rather shortly. I don’t want to go into the holiday season amidst piles of stuff.
So here’s something cute. The girl had her very first ballet recital today. Granted, it was an early introduction class for 3, 4, and 5 year olds – so there wasn’t much to it. But it was cute just the same. Here’s the video her Daddy took:
I volunteer in the girl’s classroom on Thursdays, and like any Thursday, I was there today. I love that the kids seem to enjoy my being there. They get extra attention, so it’s a good thing. I always get a ton of hugs, they draw me pictures, I read stories, and I just hang out and listen to anything they feel is important enough to share.
Today, Hailey came over to me, with her hands on her hips, looking very serious. She stood, looking at me for a second, one eye narrowed, before she finally spoke. Then in a slightly accusatory tone she asked “Why does Lily-Ann always look so pretty?” Pretty coming out with a little extra venom. I thought for a brief moment (stifling my laughter) and replied “Well, I guess that’s just how she feels inside.” Seemingly satisfied with my answer, she sauntered off.
Today is a day for contemplation, and for many it is filled with a deep sense of loss. Rightly so. And not just for the losses that occurred 11 years ago in the U.S. but for the losses 39 years ago in Chile.
Today I chose to focus on all the blessings we have. The love of family. The gift that is Lily-Ann. Our wonderful animal family members. The home we have had for nine years now. My husband, and all that he does for us. The fact that I am able to make my way through life as a photographer and advocate. That we live somewhere that anyone I love is free to love whom they love without persecution. The many friends, though some are far away, who care so deeply for us. Our many communities that we are a part of, both irl and online. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Things may not be perfect but we are so very, very blessed. No… we must not forget the travesties this world has faced, and not just on 9/11, as they have shaped our lives in so many ways. However, to dwell on all the horrible things man has done does nothing to honor all the good that has also been done. And I will always choose to focus on the love, the honor, the heroism, the bravery, and the many incredible things our species has done. I do so with hope, because I refuse to despair for our future while lamenting the past. I believe in our children, and I believe they will lead us to a life filled with love and promise.
Today is a day for contemplation. So I have, and will continue to think on our world and the world our children will find themselves in. But I will do so with hope. If nothing else, days like today, have taught us love.
The night before school starts,
and mom writes my name.
On notebooks, and pencils
helping me to lay claim.
I’m not a poet,
that’s as far as it goes.
The rest of this blog post
is thankfully in prose.
My Sharpie is no longer sharp after writing “Lily-Ann” on 12 markers, 24 crayons, 24 pencil crayons, various notebooks, folders, and a scrapbook, as well as on shoes, pencil cases, glue sticks, erasers, a pencil sharpener, a bottle of white glue (with a no clog lid), and a backpack. Gotta love the night before the first day of school. Pre-k was easy all supplies are communal, but as kids enter the regular school system labeling everything quickly becomes the norm.
I remember my Mom scrawling our names on everything… And with so many of us it was no quick task. As our pencils and pencil crayons were wore down into little nubs, and all that remained was a letter or two, I’d still think of Mom writing our names every time I saw mine. It was a reassuring thing, though it didn’t register as such on a conscious level until many years later.
I hope, as Lily-Ann sits in her classroom this coming school year, that seeing her name spelled over and over again brings a sense of belonging and love. That she knows how treasured she is, not just by her Mom (who wrote her name so very many times) but by everyone who knows her. She really is such a special kid, and her joie de vie has left many with grins where previously there were none.
Girl is ready to be a “school kid” whether or not I am ready for the same.
The thing we say to our children now, will impact them for the rest of their lives. Lily-Ann is five now, but one day she’ll be thirty-five and she’ll hear my words reverberate through her mind. What I say to her today will one day become her inner dialogue. It’s a scary and weighty thing.
The one thing I find myself saying, that I try to catch myself on before it slips out, is “How old are you?” in a rather shaming tone. If she’s acting like a nincompoop, using baby talk, whining, or feigning that something is just too hard (when I’ve seen her do it dozens, if not hundreds, of times before) I’ll ask her how old she is. If I catch myself after the fact? I try to goofy it up a bit by wrinkling up my nose and saying in a goofy tone “Are you two? No… you’re three. No, wait, that’s not right…” I hate the idea that my frustrated “how old are you” may one day be what she hears in her head when she feels needy or stressed.
It’s a heavy thing, knowing the small things we say or do – sometimes out of frustration or exhaustion – may one day shape our children’s inner dialogues. I do my best to fill her mind with things like “if you work hard enough, you can do anything” or “be gentle to yourself”… but I’m only human, and, well… chances are I’ll still mess her up.
Being broken is part of the human condition. But I’m doing my best to shape my daughter’s view of herself into something positive. She is strong, she is capable, she is utterly fabulous, and she is deeply and truly loved – THAT is what I want her to remember when she feels weak, when she feels tired, when she feels broken.
So, yesterday was kid-kid’s pre-k graduation. The kids all did such a great job, and they were all so patient (it’s hard waiting to hear your name called through TWO classes worth of little ones). Lots of people have been waiting ALMOST as patiently for photos and videos – so here they are.
Now, before we start the videos, please note: The girlie had her hair done beautifully. I left her in her classroom about twenty minutes before they came down to the gym… how you see her, is how she came down. LMAO It took every ounce of willpower to ignore my OCD self and NOT rush over and fix her pretty little headband. But I didn’t. I left it as is, and she felt good about herself (me mussing with her would not have been good for her self esteem – and we love her as she is, mussed up tresses and all).
Here they are performing “clap, clap, clap your hands”. Watch afterwards… little Alyssa runs to the edge of the stage looking for her mom, hoping for a little assistance. LOL Too cute! Oh! And yes, my daughter is the only one in the entire class who insists on bowing and taking her due credit for her performance. LMAO No… she couldn’t possibly be MY daughter. heh heh.
Song number two – all about what they learned this year in pre-k.
The girlie sings this song all the time, it’s one of her favourites. We spend a lot of time answering questions about why they’d have a rat chasing away a snake when snakes eat rats… which always cracks me up. She takes it all so seriously. But honestly? Why do they have a rat chasing a snake?
So… what do you think? Maybe another performer in the family? LOL
Damon (who took all the videos for me – thanks so much!) missed the very beginning of this next bit. Ms. Tracy introduced each of the kids, and said a few words about them before giving them a book and their certificate. Of course, our little one – who goes to school dressed as a princess or a fairy (and slightly less often as a cowboy or pirate) half the time, was introduced as “Miss Lily-Ann Marie Smith Princess Cinderella”. And as for the comment that they watched her “become smart as a whip”? We think she always was. LMAO
Back when she was only three, and in her first year of pre-k, Lily-Ann had both a “boyfriend” and a “girlfriend” (the second of which is still her bff, even though she went off to kindergarten and kid-kid didn’t). And that boyfriend title stuck, as Cale also stuck around for a second year of pre-k. I made sure to grab a quick photo of the two of them on their way into the school for their pre-k graduation. All dressed up, and SUPER cute:
Lastly is the girl with her best bud from this year. Parker is seriously the sweetest little boy ever. He helps Lily-Ann with her fear of heights, always waits for her to make sure she hasn’t gotten herself into trouble, and is by her side about 80% of the time. He really is such a huge sweetheart. I’m so glad she’s got a friend in him. So, I had to make sure to grab a shot of them after their grad:
So thanks for sticking with me through this video and photo laden post. It was a very special day for the girl and us. Can’t believe she’ll be on her way to kindergarten this Autumn. I blinked and my baby girl is already a school kid. How exactly does that happen?
Heroes. They are something we should all have, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Some may be the usual suspects, heralds of a cause, but others can be found unexpected places. In truth, I believe everyone has the potential to be a hero. And I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate this fact that to share a few of my local Saskatchewan heroes who also happen to be members of the acronym community.
Mikayla Schultz is the founder of TransSask (support services). She is a tireless advocate and campaigner for equality. Through tremendous efforts, she recently put government to the test and had many successes with the signing of a declaration formalizing March 25-31 as Transgender Awareness Week in communities across Saskatchewan.
Don Cochrane is a former University of Saskatchewan professor, who continues to educate everyone he meets. His groundbreaking work into subjects of importance to the Sexual Minority and Gender Variant community continue to force change, improving the lives of everyone in Canada. You can see his hand all over this province, and especially at the annual Breaking the Silence conference here in Saskatoon.
Sarah Houghtaling is a local high school student. She strives diligently to make lives better not only for those who attend school with her, but for minority students across our province. A student activist who’s name I highly recommend taking note of. She’s one of the many young people who WILL change our world for the better. If you are ever able to attend one of her talks, DO! You will be inspired.
Kay Williams is one of the most outspoken allies you will ever meet. A determined advocate for her son, and a helping voice in a confusing world for parents new to the world of parenting LGBTT2QI children and youth. Kay is a proud volunteer, and one of the founding members of PFLAG in Saskatoon. She also was awarded the Peter Corren Award for Outstanding Achievement this year at Breaking the Silence – and yes, I teared up during her acceptance speech (which I recorded, and will share at some point).
Four individuals, all unique, all at different stages of their journey, all willing to do whatever it takes to see things become better for those around them. All four are heroes, and all four I’m proud to call friend.
Who are the heroes in your life?