On most mornings, I bring Maggie back to our bed so she can give Daddy a wakeup kiss and get him in the shower. When David opens his eyes and looks at our daughter, he says, "Sweetheart. Where did you come from?" Because Maggie doesn't look much like David or me. She is much better looking than either one of us. Perhaps, I sometimes think, she is a changeling.
I then take Maggie back to her room to change her sodden all-night diaper and choose what she will wear that day. Maggie has so many enchanting things to wear that it is a little stressful trying to keep them all in rotation. I never thought that I would be this mom, risking debtor's prison to feed my Petit Bateau habit. I never thought that I would put more consideration than was healthy into what my little girl should be wearing to her "Free to Be Under Three" class on a Thursday morning, biting my lip as I considered whether her teacher there had seen Maggie in a particular frock before. But there I stand. "What about this one?" I say, pulling out a ruffly dress utterly unsuitable for a day Maggie will spend mostly hanging around the house. Maggie clasps her fat little hands together and inhales sharply. "Uh dess, uh PEH-EE," she breathes. She stays patient and still while I dress her. "Yes, Maggie," I say, stepping back and taking in that day's masterpiece. "It is pretty." Then she makes her second grand appearance of the day before her father, who by then, will be standing at the mirror shaving. David never fails to give the desired reaction: he hits the sides of his face with his open palms, in mock disbelief, and coos in falsetto, "So pretty! Who's so pretty?"
There is no question who has become, in David's heart, the fairest of them all. It has been a long time since he has reacted so enthusiastically to one of my ensembles. Of course, that may be because the attention that I pay to Maggie's beauty and wardrobe has come at the expense of my own. When I woke up this past Easter morning, I had no idea what I was going to wear to church. From the depths of my closet, twenty minutes before Mass was due to begin, I dredged up a blouse that (post-breastfeeding) gaped two sizes too large and a skirt that puckered about the hips in a manner most unbecoming. Oh, and I hadn't washed my hair. But Maggie's outfit- dress, crinoline, tights, and white patent leather shoes-- had been laid out on her dresser for a week, chosen after great deliberation from several excellent finalists as I drifted off to sleep each night.
I am aware that I am on a slippery slope to Pageant Mom here. Not that I have ever dreamed of Maggie becoming Little Miss International Darling Grand Supreme. But now that I have a daughter, I get those women. When I walk down the street pushing Maggie's stroller, and Maggie walks beside me pushing her doll baby in her stroller, the construction workers no longer catcall at me like they did ten years ago. But every passerby gives Maggie a "She's so cute!," or at least the "awww" pushed-out lower lip, and I scoop these compliments up eagerly. If I receive a compliment myself, I want to brush it off: "Really? I look like I lost weight? Uh, hardly." But hearing that my daughter is pretty is lovely and uncomplicated. I don't have to roll my eyes when someone says Maggie is beautiful. I just say "thank you," and I mean it.
Read the remainder of this essay on Hybrid Mom.