Picture Day

A few weeks ago, it was school picture day. After unloading the dishwasher that morning, I went back to the bedroom to see how Emma was coming along with getting dressed. There was just enough time left to help her pick an outfit and do her hair.

To my surprise, I found Emma sitting cross-legged on the bathroom counter. Her face was just a few inches from the mirror. She had put an entire packet of brightly colored clips all around the crown of her head. Some of the clips had slipped and were dangling from strands of hair. She was dressed in a bright yellow, puffy Belle gown from Beauty and the Beast. She had paired her dress with dark purple Ugg boots inherited from her sister, at least three sizes too big. She wore three necklaces and one shell lei around her neck.

She turned to me and smiled as I walked into the bathroom – then went back to putting clips in her hair.

I opened my mouth, ready to make suggestions. My mind was spinning with fixes. It was reflexive. How quickly our thoughts turn to judging and brainstorming ways to improve those we love!

Perhaps her red, solid-colored dress rather than the Belle costume for today? Maybe I could blow-dry her hair and curl it under a bit, and she could pick one favorite clip? What if she picked just one necklace instead of three? How about her black shoes instead of the boots?

But I didn’t say any of those things. Because in that tiny space before my thoughts became words, I saw her reflection in the mirror. And what I saw was joy. I looked at the care she had put into her outfit. I saw the focused attention she was putting into snapping each of the clips in her hair. 

In the picture, her hands are on her hips with a fall-themed background. There are pumpkins piled next to her to go with the fall theme. Emma is wearing a yellow Belle dress with purple boots. A crown of clips is around her head, with some of the clips dangling from the ends of her hair. There are three necklaces and one shell lei around her neck.

Her smile is radiant. She looks confident. She looks happy. She looks beautiful. She looks so much like who she is.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.