Something Old, Something New

I caught my daughter in a wedding dress today.

Playing dress up at school and oblivious her mother had entered the class and was watching, she held a pencil in her hand like a bouquet and walked in a straight line to her cubby.

I nearly threw up.

Seeing her just pretend to get married sent shivers down my spine and made my otherwise calm mind go slightly insane. My gut reaction was “NO NO NO NO NO THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT FOR YOU!”

This is the reaction of a happily married woman who has had many, many benefits from being tied to one man for the rest of her life.

This is the reaction of a girl who dreamt of her own wedding since she was her daughter’s age.

This is the reaction of a mostly sane woman who has done as she pleases through out life and supports the institution of marriage.

Slightly panicked, I asked my darling daughter to take off her play veil and dress. It was time to go home.

But Mom, don’t I look beautiful?

Yes honey but it’s time to go.

But I look beautiful, right? Just like your picture on the tv.

Again I was stopped dead in my tracks.

Of course one of our wedding photos sits atop our television and of course she’s asked to see it a million times. She has asked me about the dress, the veil, the flowers. We’ve talked about how Daddy was wearing a tuxedo with his Chucks and why Mommy wore no shoes. She sees her father dote on me. She’s never seen us fight. She has no inclining of what it means to be married and what it takes to stay married and only vaguely knows and understands the word “compromise.”

To her, a marriage is a wedding and a wedding means a fancy dress and a pretty veil and everyone telling you just how beautiful you are.

As a young girl, I can remember my father telling me over and over again that I never needed to marry. That he wanted more for me, and that I didn’t need a man. He told me this so much, that I began to think of matrimony as some far off thing “other” girls did and something I “might” do someday if I felt like it. But even during my most independent of moments, that dress and those flowers and that ring still beckoned. I wanted to be told I was beautiful and I wanted a man to love me forever and I wanted all those things and then some despite myself.

There was no rationale for it though. No coherent, logical reason. Just like there was no coherent, logical reason I nearly lost my breakfast when I saw my 4-year old dressed as a bride.

Maybe it was less about the wedding gown and more about her growing up. Maybe it was my want for her to do everything and see everything and enjoy everything before getting married and settling down.

Maybe because I am finally realizing she is not me. She does not need and want what I need and want, and there is no guarantee that what makes me happy, will make her happy.

Maybe I just realized she’s her own, tiny peanut of a girl who will do what she wants, regardless of what I say. Pencil instead of bouquet, wrinkled size 4 wedding gown, obstinate and strong headed, fighting me to keep it on, while I wrestle it off.

I may have gotten the dress off today…but I may not next time around.


  1. Converses? How simply awesome! At my daughter’s wedding, the entire male portion of the wedding party was in black suits and black Converse high-tops. Even my son, then age 8 (so cute!). My daughter wore shoes, but they were sparkly flip-flops, to show off her toe manicure.

    But by then I was ready.

    It’s hard to get ready for such a thing.

  2. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready. For ANY OF THIS growing up nonsense. It’s NONSENSE I SAY!!!! gah.

  3. happybroad says:

    I always thought I would be the parent who copes with the daughters growing up, better than my husband would.But as my 12 year old grows up, I find myself panicking at the thought! And negotiating that route of balancing what they need and want with my needs and wants for them, is proving difficult!

  4. Those kids have a way of smacking us right in the middle of our issues. My own 4-year-old went through a bout of boy troubles recently. It was not easy to watch, and it filled me with a great fear and dread of her teen years and beyond. It’s hard to watch them go off and do their own thing, especially when it’s not the thing we want for them. Gah.

  5. Wow. Heavy. Beautifully written; visceral.
    I, too, was told I didn’t need a man. I really enjoy the one I have. 😛
    Being doted on is awesome. 😉

  6. Hey now…my sister wore white chucks to her wedding. Red stripe on the sole to match her red accented wedding gown.

    But then again she did wear candy pink connies to her prom too…

  7. Can I ask you from experience to tread carefully here? Our children will generally emulate the examples of their parents, but not exactly. My own mother was deeply disappointed when I announced my engagement. For months, I couldn’t get off the phone with her without crying, but eventually it came out that she thought I was throwing my life away by getting married before I had actually accomplished anything. Of course her actions in the years leading up to that point gave me the same message, and probably pushed me further from the direction she wanted me to go.

    What she didn’t realize was that I would accomplish so much more in the first few years after getting married than I had in my first 26 years. A supportive partner only helped.

    Your daughter is 4. A “frilly stage,” as I call it, is really quite normal, and you will most likely see a “tomboy stage” in a couple of years. Most likely, she’ll find a balance, as most of us not indoctrinated in pageant/cheerleader culture tend to do.

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