In a futile attempt to de-clutter a junk drawer near our computer, I pulled out a picture from far in the back and laughed until I cried. Eagerly, I placed the picture in a conspicuous spot on the kitchen counter and waited in anticipation. High drama would in all likelihood occur as soon as my daughter walked in the front door after a long day at junior high school. I was not disappointed.
When I saw my daughter’s best friend come into the kitchen with her, I couldn’t believe my luck; I could not have orchestrated a more perfect scenario! My daughter’s friend saw the picture first and was a split second faster than her. She grabbed the picture and dashed through the house, desperately trying to keep it away from my daughter, who was clearly bent on its immediate destruction. Her friend prevailed. Defeated and distraught with the prospect of the picture being circulated at school the next day, my daughter stomped into the kitchen ready for a fight. “Mom,” she demanded, “Why did you ever let me take that picture? How could you have let me wear those clothes? My hair looked awful! I’m so embarrassed! Why would a mom DO such a thing?!” Since she was a highly-emotional thirteen-year-old, I thought it wise to let her vent for a few minutes and eat a snack as she decompressed. Then I cautiously took her for a walk down memory lane.
Once a year, I drag my kids to the picture studio for individual and group pictures. Since all of the pictures are displayed on the same wall, I naturally prefer that they wear coordinating outfits. I try to keep things simple, so when my daughter was eleven years old, I had decided that each child would wear a different pastel-colored golf shirt. It seemed easy enough, and since she was insistent on making her own choices, I was relieved that my daughter had two different shirts from which to choose. My relief was short-lived. She regarded those shirts with upmost disdain, adamantly refusing to wear either one of them. I was determined otherwise, and a heated argument ensued. The discussion soon morphed into her accusing me of numerous injustices I had allegedly committed against her, most of which revolved around me always telling her what to do and never letting her decide for herself. It got ugly. I felt I had the right to tell her what to wear once a year for a picture. She took exception.
Half an hour later, I had won the hard-fought battle and was waiting in the car with the rest of my children for Her Highness to arrive, ridiculously late for our scheduled appointment. I was emotionally exhausted and close to tears when I had an epiphany: Yes, I had won the battle, but what about the war? In the long run, my relationship with my daughter was infinitely more important than a picture that would hang on the wall for a year at most. Fully understanding that our relationship should be top priority, my first instinct was still to hold my ground. Hadn’t I fought a good fight and emerged victorious? A perfectly pastel picture was firmly within my grasp! Reluctantly acknowledging that pride had no place in this situation, I felt a weight lift off of my heart as my golf shirt clad daughter stomped into the car, slammed the door, and I was able to say to her, “Sweetheart, it doesn’t matter what you wear. Go ahead and change into whatever you want for the picture. I’ll wait.” Speechless, she stared at me for several seconds and then asked, “Are you serious?” I assured her that I was. Five minutes later, she reemerged wearing boy jeans, a black long-sleeved sport shirt, hair slicked back into a ponytail, bangs held back with a black knit headband - and a smile. We took the pictures and I hung them on the wall, where they remained for well over a year.An hour after the picture-snatching incident, the two best friends came back into the kitchen for another round of snacks. Intent on her own food preparation, my daughter seemed oblivious to her friend’s no-food status, so her friend eventually had to ask. Still looking down at her own food, my daughter replied, “Sure, if I can have the picture back.” Hunger overcame reason, and the picture was returned to its rightful owner – in exchange for a piece of toast. What I’d love to do is hang that picture on the wall – or at least scrapbook it – but I’ve hit a roadblock. The picture has mysteriously disappeared.
P.S. As you can see, I eventually found the picture. Kirsten now laughs about this, or I promise you the picture would NOT be here. I've invested too much in our relationship!