A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

Yesterday our one and only daughter turned 10.

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Double digits she said when she woke up. Booya!

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Her one wish (other than a kitten and to pull up the carpet in her bedroom) was that her cousins, aunts/uncles and grandparents could be there on her day. Dailah’s love language is quality time, I’m afraid she might get that from me.

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She is OBSESSED with art. Every day she has found a new medium that she attacks with gusto only to mostly abandon it a few weeks later. Her room is full of the cast offs. For two weeks she’s been spending 9am-2pm learning to sculpt, the intricacies of pottery and beginning jewelry. She has never been happier. When we recently cleaned her room she said, “I need someone with courage to go through my room and throw away things for me. I just can’t do it. I can’t help but remember all the good memories with each thing.” I’m the opposite so I threw away virtually everything and haven’t lost a bit of sleep over it. 😉 But I respect the ways she creates mini alters with her love.

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Dailah is probably my pickiest eater. She doesn’t vocalize her objections to my cooking very often but rarely does she consume it with abandon. Thus on her birthday she chose donuts, cinnamon rolls and pizza as her food staples. I pray one day she learns to love the taste and texture of quinoa but she doesn’t currently seem to be headed down that path.

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Though she started out as my worst snuggler of the family she has come back with a vengeance. If she isn’t laying her feet on you then she is straight up climbing onto your lap. In the car she is the first to extend a hand and have me hold it while I drive and she chats about her running internal dialogue. Because I’ve had a few good snugglers in her brothers that lasted right up until they became teenagers, I’m going to embrace these moments knowing they won’t last forever.

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We were listening to NPR months back and there was a story about the need for kids with cancer to have real-hair wigs. Dailah asked a few follow up questions and then we dropped it. A week later she said she was ready to chop off all of her hair as long as it could be donated. No hesitation, no regrets. She has always been one that makes up her mind and then commits to the process. Love that.

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Dailah has a real knack for falling asleep in the car. On the way to a softball game? Yup. On the way to birthday dinner? Yup. If she’s not chatting about all the things then she is sleeping. Perfect example of her ability to go 100% to the point of exhaustion.

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This one is a daddy’s girl. In her eyes Zach can do no wrong and she’s constantly asking me how she ends up with someone as great as her dad. He took her to a little bar in Downtown Kalamazoo on one of their date nights so she asked to go there again last night for her birthday. While there she looked sad so I asked her what she could possibly be sad about. “Well I guess this place isn’t as much fun unless it’s just daddy and me.”

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At dinner we had a few other guests who were riding with Zach and Trysten to their baseball game. So Trysten and the other young man, Ray, were on their phones before the food got there. Dailah asked if she could make a birthday rule where Trysten couldn’t be on his phone. “He doesn’t need it when there are so many games he could be playing with me.” She longs for the days when they all use to hang out with only each other-truth be told I do too-and no matter how many times I tell her that they will all end up being good friends as adults, she just doesn’t believe me. As much as she laments the fact that she’s got so many boys around her all the time she loves them and was so excited to share her birthday treats with them-choosing their favorites so that they would be equally excited.

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Last night in the car she asked if I had heard that Meghan Trainor took down her video for the song “Me Too” because the Director had photoshopped her to appear thinner than she was. “Isn’t that so brave, mom? I wonder how many other famous women it will take for magazines and movie people to stop doing that to women?”

And then as we were watching So You Think You Can Dance a young woman and her dance partner messed up their audition pretty badly. So the young woman asked for a second chance, saying she knew they were capable of better. “She has so much courage mom! To speak to adults with respect but ask for what she wants. That’s why you always tell us ‘the answer will always be no if you don’t ask the question’ isn’t it?”

I admit to being more intentional in a lot of ways as I raise Dailah. There are far more mixed messages in our culture for women than for men. I feel like I’m constantly commenting on things being said and discussed in the public and private arenas. It sometimes seems that when you’re growing up as a female the world is full of asterisks just waiting to be defined.

I love so much that as she has met, friended and gotten to know young ladies who are choosing to gossip about other ladies or speak negatively about them-that she has respectfully stopped being as close with them. I love that when I ask her why she hasn’t called “x” lately she always says something like, “They just want different things from their friends than I do.”

I love that she asks really thoughtful questions about relationships, sex, politics, business and the like. Dailah is constantly awake and curious about the world and does not consider the fact that most of the world just wants little girls like her to accept the status quo, be meek and apologize for taking up space. She has never wavered and has always, always accepted that her ideas, questions, and voice matter in the world, something I’ve quite literally just come to believe of myself in the last handful of years.

I’m humbled by the task of raising her because in many ways she seems so much stronger than I am. But every morning I wake up and choke back happy tears when she comes out of her room with a smile and extended arms waiting to embrace me and the rest of the world.

Love you my Dobadays. Happy birthday baby girl.

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My birthday

I love birthdays, not just mine-though I’m partial to it, all of them. I would say it’s a fairly common occurence that I’m more excited than the birthday person about his/her birthday. What’s not to celebrate? Life! It happened and continues to happen every day! What a gift!

Zach caught on early on in our relationship that I love birthdays and that on my birthday I just loooove to be spoiled. Not in the gift department, the truth is I really could care less about receiving any gifts, but in the thoughtfulness department. As the person who makes most of the decisions regarding the house/kids/babysitting/date nights, etc I get the day off! So if there is a date to be had, I don’t want to correspond with the babysitter. If there’s a meal to be prepared, I don’t want to think about preparing it. Truly that, for me, is the very definition of a gift!

If there’s one thing that became abundantly clear all day it was that I am loved by far more people than I deserve and that I’m far more grateful than they will ever know for that.

A few of my friends met me at the Y to do one of our favorite classes together. You know when you’re just in the same room as so much good energy that it rubs off on you and you’re left feeling like you just got a 2 hour massage? Yeah that.

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Oh and I taught Bodypump. Ashley-far left in above pic-took this picture of me and captioned it, “It’s her birthday and she’ll pump if she wants to.” Loved that.

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Zach had the kids bring me a balloon-just to my left in above picture-and flowers during my class and then took us all to one of my favorite restaurants afterwards. The Olive Tree is 2 thumbs up if you’re in the QC area!

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I scheduled a hair trim (for the side of my head that actually has hair) with my favorite stylist EVER. Molly never judges what I want and is able to understand when I say stuff like, “I want a little shorter here, keep it long right there, probably get rid of some weight and then just guess the rest.” Also she just had one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen a few months ago and already looks amazing, we will forgive her of that indiscretion friends. (And did I mention they serve wine at the hair studio? Wine people!)

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Bigs had a baseball game (actually littles did too but I wasn’t aware of that until we got the to the fields…that’s neither here nor there) and I got to watch Trysten and Tariku pitch and Tomas take a few hard hits to the outfield. Also got to hang with my nephew Cassius, win-win-win-win for me!

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Finally, Zach and I tried a new restaurant for dinner. He set up the babysitter, he figured out dinner for the children, he made the night (and my life) everything good and lovely.

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I happened to have been born on my mom’s birthday. So fun every year to call her on my birthday and sing her happy birthday. A day to celebrate my life and the life of one of my favorite women in all the world? It’s just too much happiness, really.

Do you guys love birthdays? You love gifts or thoughts more? Be honest. 🙂

On Hair

A little over a year ago I decided to cut my hair. Before that I had always (except for one time long ago when I tried to have a $10 pixie cut-bad. news.) rocked long hair. My hair was always getting compliments because it was “the good kind of hair”-thick, course, just a little bit of wave, etc. It did basically exactly what I wanted it to on any given day and didn’t take up too much of my time.

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When I first went to the hair stylist to tell her I wanted a pixie, she was horrified. So even though I went in with an exact example of what I wanted, she successfully talked me into something a bit less drastic. She was sure I’d regret it if I went for the full chop like I was hoping for. We She settled on this. (Far right, holding my adorable niece Adley).

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It wasn’t a bad hair cut, in fact I’ve seen it on many women and loved it, it’s just not what I wanted. After a month of trying to get it to look as sassy as I felt, my wonderful husband finally said, “Just do it. Go get your hair cut how you wanted it in the first place. You’ll never know if it’s what you really want until you do it.” And so I did.

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Since that day I haven’t really looked back. I’ve worn it spiked, down, mohawk-ed. I’ve had it blonde mostly but I also went purple and maroon.

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Currently I’m wearing it shaved on one side and a little longer in the front/on the top. I asked Zach a few weeks ago, “Hey, you wanna shave part of my head?” His response, “Never thought you’d ask me that but sure.”

Let me start by saying I understand that I’m super lucky to have a husband who puts 0 stalk in how I look. I get that I’m one of the lucky ones who has married a man who finds me (almost) equally charming and beautiful in my sweats as he does in my bridesmaid dresses. I get that.

But having my hair short has been one lesson after another in the hurtful ways we women think about ourselves. Almost every day I get a woman coming up to me saying something along these 4 lines:

“Oh man, I love your hair, I wish I could pull that off!”

“Oh man, I have always wanted short hair but I don’t have the face/look/hair for it.”

“I LOVE your hair! I would love to try short hair but my husband would kill me!”

“Love the hair, would love to try it but it would make my butt/face/belly/arms look HUGE.”

Every time I hear it I say something like, “Please don’t say that about yourself, it’s absolutely not true. I used to do that to myself as well, it doesn’t feel good. So stop it! And if you want your hair cut do it! Let’s go right now!”

Look, we are ingrained from a young age to believe our femininity is tied to many things-our hair is just one of them. In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, (side note: you have to read this. Go reserve it at your library, I’ll wait. Ok then) she talks about how feminine norms are the foundation of shame triggers. “If women want to play by the rules, they need to be sweet, thin and pretty, (editor’s note: I would add, ‘with long hair’) stay quiet, be perfect moms and wives, and not own their power

She goes on to talk about how any move outside of these norms brings a hailstorm of shame on the woman making such risky moves.

And boy do I believe it. Because we women have a constant stream of unhealthy self talk going on at any given time in our heads, right? I don’t want to boil it all down to physical appearances because it is not just that, but since this blog is about hair that will be the focus.

I think, for me at least, it took me so long to go for this hair cut I had been coveting for so long because it takes so much work to own your own power as a woman. So many of our bosses make it impossible, some husbands or significant others clearly make it really hard to do so, our kids might be testing our resolve at owning our own power. Certainly I think the biggest culprit is our society’s emphasis on masculine power structure being the end all be all, whether it be in really obvious ways (marketing, culture of war) or fairly subliminal ways (the ways in which we were raised and familial hierarchy structures).

None of this is to say that if you’re rockin’ long locks you are giving in to “the man”. I merely want us, as women, to start evaluating who we are letting take our agency. As a mother to a daughter I am constantly aware of the way she sees me look at myself. I am constantly aware that the way I talk about me is the way she will one day talk about herself. Whew. What a scary and brutifal honor.

What I want her to see when she looks at me is someone who owns everything she is-the beautiful and terrible. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I want to own all of that, there’s a lot of scary stuff in there, but if I don’t own it someone else will and that is far more terrifying to me.

Maybe one day our daughters won’t have to consciously think about owning their own power, maybe our culture will have let go of the (dated) masculine ideal, we can hope. But until then I’m going to show Dailah my struggle with it so that she knows it’s a choice every day.

So when Dailah sees her dad shaving half my head she’ll see a small shift in the world and know she’s on the right side of things.

Do you guys struggle with this? Is it just me? Beuller? Beuller?