This past weekend we were part of my cousins wedding. I was the photographer, Maeve was the flower girl, the guys (Ryan and my dad) were laborers ;)
The excitement of wearing a white, poofy dress, and tossing out flower petals had Maeve into a state of frenzied joy I had never seen.
I twisted her hair into a simple bun and pinned some flowers in it. "Do I look so beautiful mama?"
"Oh my goodness! You are the most gorgeous flower girl ever!" I said, giving her cheek one of those annoying granny pinches. (Where do those pinches come from? They must be acquired with age...)
We piled in the car and drove to the wedding. A thirty minute drive, Maeve talked a mile a minute about her flower girl duties, the big dance party, occasionally mentioning some friends she had made at the rehearsal dinner.
Maeve truth: Yes, behold, I am her mother. Therefore I think she is amazing in every way, shape or form. But truly, Maeve is such a kind spirited kid. It's my absolute favorite trait she owns. She can make friends with a rock. She's just THAT kind and gentle.
At the wedding, being the social butterfly she is, she ran up to the other flower girl and that was that. I focused on photographing the wedding.
I noticed Maeve's fellow flower girl (who was maybe 7 or 8) wasn't talking to her much. I thought it was a communication thing. We had been to a wedding shower the previous month and the grooms side of the family speaks mostly Spanish. So as Maeve bounced around, asking questions, and the little girl stayed silent, I smiled to myself. I actually even made a mental note: Write blog post on how kids don't let language barriers stand in their way.
After the ceremony we sat for dinner. Maeve was begging to eat with this little girl and her friends but I was starting to get the feeling she was becoming a tag-along. I persuaded her to stay at our table and eat with us, with the promise she could go and play after dinner. Throughout dinner she chatted about her new friends and drew them pictures on napkins. Asking how to spell their names, she meticulously wrote out each letter that we have been working so hard on.
When dinner was over, she was up and ready to go play. She gathered up her drawings and ran around passing them out to the girls. My family and I laughed, admiring how social she is.
A few minutes later the group of girls, with Maeve trailing, were out the door and on the lawn running and playing.
I stepped out to take some pictures, wanting to capture Maeve and her new friends. And then I heard:
Maeve: "Hey want to play tag you're it?"
a girl: "Sure. Tag, now go away."
Maeve giggled and ran around. She thought they were playing with her.
And my heart dropped.
I saw the pictures and words Maeve had drawn for her "friends" blowing around on the ground.
Maeve: "Now I'll catch you!"
I was a tad shocked; this was my first experience with seeing my little girl being mistreated by her peers. I walked over to the group of girls and said, "Hey guys! This is Maeve; she wants to play tag. Do you guys want to play?"
another girl: "No. We told her we don't want to play with her."
"Oh. Well.... Okay.... Maeve come on bugs, lets go back up to the wedding."
Maeve grabbed my hand, completely oblivious to her unwanted presence. And then she caught sight of the "letters" she had written and drawn.
"Oh wait mom! My letters! My friends need their letters!"
I wanted to pull her in, say in my best 7th grade bully voice, "Those girls aren't your friends! They're mean! You are so much cooler than them!" And then reality grabbed me (thank God). Ashley. These are 7 and 8 year old girls. They don't want to play with your five year old daughter. Get over it.
I helped Maeve pick up the letters and talked her into leaving them on their place mats inside, rather than trying to hand them out again. She was fine with it, and life went on.
And here I am, three days later, tears streaming down my face because I cannot grasp this concept of someone, even a 7 year old girl, not seeing Maeve for who she is.
Now let me say, it goes deeper than that. Of course it does.
It really isn't about the 7 and 8 year old girls at the wedding. They're 7 and 8 years old, for crying out loud.
What this is about, is me, trying (and failing miserably) to come to terms with the fact that Maeve is growing up. In my eyes, she's the 6 pound ball of wonder that liked to be swaddled like a burrito. She's the girl who gives me butterfly kisses and likes cheese sandwiches. She's the girl who loves her brother and sister to death. She's the girl who wants to grow up and be a princess. She's the girl who believes in mermaids and good people. She's the girl who thinks the world is her oyster, and everyone is a friend.
And I'm the mom who wants so desperately to preserve all of that. Forever.
Life moves sickeningly fast. And I know its not possible to keep her in this state of princesses and fairy tales forever. I know she's going to face much, much worse than a group of 7 year old girls who don't like her drawings or playing tag.
But how. HOW do you let go? And let it be?
How do you let your ball of wonder be made fun of? How do you let them be lied to? Laughed at? How do you tell them they weren't invited to a party? How do you let them have their hearts broken? How do you let them out of fantasy world, and into the real world?
I know the answer is, you just do. They grow, and there's no stopping it.
Again, it comes down to how crazy important this parenting thing is. How Maeve handles situations is directly correlated with what we teach her here at home.
I feel like I'm always saying "Oh you're so cute!" or "You are the smartest 5 year old I know!" Lots of praise, just because I love fluffing my kids' lives and its true. In my eyes, Maeve is the smartest little 5 year old I know. Henry is the cutest little man. And Stella is the sweetest chub.
But this weekend, another chapter in parenting opened before me; there isn't enough praise- there are not enough "You can do it's!" or "You are amazing's!" to get our kids through this life unfazed.
They will hurt. They'll be left out. They will be teased and come home from school in tears. Their little hearts that are essentially ours, will be broken.
So my lesson in all of this? I can't control how others perceive my kids. I can't control what will be said to them; how society will treat them. As much as I want to follow Maeve around school and point out all her awesome traits to her peers, "HEY! She does this great impression of Taylor Swift!" its just not feasible.
What I can do, is give my all in making them know their value.
Praise your kids. Exclaim their worth. And when you think you've praised them enough, do it some more.
AND... do you LOVE the new blog look? Like how it doesn't look like a blog, but an actual website now? YAYYYY!!! That thanks goes straight to Libby!!! She got on here and whipped up a new blog design in like 10 minutes... no joke. Thanks sweet lady!!!! :DDD