Dear Natalie: Week 41

Dear Natalie,

This weekend we celebrated our first Mother’s Day as a family of three (but don’t let the cats hear you say that; they’ll be terribly offended to not be included in the count) and it was truly a lovely day, despite the inauspicious start.

Since my wish to sleep in was firmly denied, we moved on to my next request: get a nice picture of you and I together.

We have a lot of photos of you and I together from your very early days. Your dad and I were both snap happy and took loads of pictures of each other with you. But then as time went on, the amount of photos started to drop off, and now the only pictures of you and I are ones that I take myself at arm’s reach, pixel-y selfies that print no larger than a postage stamp.

Your Grammy recently sent me a half dozen photos of myself from when I was your age, and in every one of them I’m either on her lap, or the lap of my Nana or Great Grammy. (You never got to meet your Great Great Grandma Wakefield, but she was an amazing lady. You would’ve gotten along famously.) Some of the photos are technically better than others, but honestly, it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. I love them because of the relationships they capture.

As the mother of a daughter, I sometimes feel anxious about my role in helping you cultivate a strong sense of self-confidence. It’s easy for me to demure when someone tries to take a picture of me: Oh no, not today, my hair’s a mess. I didn’t sleep at all last night; do you see these bags under my eyes? And then I wonder about what kind of example I’m setting for you. That you’re only beautiful if your hair is styled? Or if you spent 40 minutes putting on makeup? I cringe at the thought of that being the lesson you learn from me.

I look at the photos of myself with my mom and grandmothers and great grandmother, and I don’t see messy hair or tired eyes or flawed skin (well, I see the huge ’80s hairdos everyone is sporting; kind of hard to overlook those). I’m sure at the time they had reasons why they would’ve preferred not to have their photo taken, but the point is they still did it.

I’m so grateful they didn’t demure. I’m grateful they were too busy smiling at me, too busy enjoying this time with their family, to throw their hands in front of their face and say, not today.

My mother is beautiful to me because of her amazingly warm smile, the reassuring strength of her arms when she hugs me, and her easy, infectious laugh. That is what I see when I look at photos of us.

I step in front of the camera with you in the hopes that you will see the same things. That years down the road, you’ll look at the pictures from your first Mother’s Day and you’ll see the light in my eyes when I was looking at you.

I am radiant because I am full of joy, and that shows through whether or not I’ve taken the time to put on eyeliner. I want you to know that about yourself, too: that your beauty is not dependent on the outfit you’re wearing or how your hair is styled.

Shine on, baby girl.

Love always,


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