Before I had children, I would often see mothers, their children looking disheveled, and their own appearance a marked change from the sharp dressers they’d once been and think, “Mmmm, they’re letting themself go.” I assumed an inability to “Stay on top of it” was the cause.

Now, in their position, I realize the cause might have been very different than I’d assumed. Yesterday, as I walked through a department store with Zoe, I saw her through the eyes of another, the eyes of an earlier me. She looked like a wild, disheveled child. She wore thick red snow boots, pink pajama pants, a fuchsia tutu underneath a navy cotton dress. Overtop was a thick cable-knit cream cardigan with a hood. Her thin straight hair was sticking out in all sorts of directions. What others couldn’t know, is that her mother had gone into to help her dress into a more adult-friendly outfit that morning, but had been refused. What others didn’t know, was that she chose every piece she was wearing, and dressed herself, confidently, intentionally. Most of the items were chosen for their color, or for the fact that she could easily get them on and off- an important requirement for her clothing, as costume changes are a key ingredient of her living her best life! What I didn’t know as a college student was that those mothers who’s children were dressed such, had indeed “given up” but not in the way I thought. They’d given up the need to control their children regarding matters of little importance, recognizing that allowing a child control over their own life is key to building confidence and joy. They likely hadn’t “given up” on their appearance either, just realized that the inward beauty of a person is just as important to cultivate as the exterior, and time spent in quiet reading, meditation or exercise, or evening rocking a little one was likely selected that morning, or that year, in place of coifing one’s locks.

Oh, the things we think we know. Oh, the power and beauty of experience.

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