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Monday, October 13, 2008

My Pretty Little Princess

SarahAge8-1 by you.

I don't think Sarah would appreciate me calling her that - now that she is 14, a high schooler, and part tomboy at the moment.  However, she used to be all girly-girl, pink room and everything, always wearing dresses, skirts, frilly this and that.  Now she wears jeans and Harley Davidson t-shirts to school.

SarahAge5-1 by you.

I have a funny story to tell about Sarah.  When she was 5 years old and we were living in Maryland, I received an invitation to have Sarah participate in a local pageant - Pretty Little Princess.  So, at the last minute (because I am not a pageant mom type person, nor am I very prompt about doing things) I sent in the invitation with the registration fee and Sarah's picture and a week later I was told that she was accepted into the pageant. 

Sarah would need a dressy dress and a slacks outfit.  So that is exactly what we got her for this ceremonious occasion.  Sarah looked adorable.  Her hair is the most beautiful head of hair I've ever seen.  Long.  Shiny.  Unnaturally thick.  Naturally wavy.  And, at 5, her hair was way past her shoulders and gorgeous. 

When we arrived at the Hyatt Regency Hotel where the pageant was being staged, I accompanied Sarah into the dressing room where we were surrounded by a barrage of little girls with big hair, too much makeup, and big dresses, from age 3 to 5. 

SarahAge5-3 by you.

I was sad, because I had told Sarah that we were there to have fun and yet, the other little girls didn't look like they were having much fun.  Sadly, it appeared to be all about the Moms and not the children.  I felt bad for some of them.  I had told Sarah that she could model her pretty new clothes to all these people and that we wanted her to have fun, make new friends, and smile.  Just be herself and have fun.  I didn't put any makeup on her precious face.  Not a stitch.  I let the natural wave of her hair be her pride.  I let her smile speak volumes about her personality. 

So Sarah ran around the dressing room and introduced herself to the other little girls.  "Isn't this going to be fun?" she would say.  "We get to show our pretty new clothes to all these people!"  She introduced herself with enthusiasm and a smile. 

One mother asked me to please control my daughter because she was disrupting the other little girls who were not permitted to move their hair or touch anything.  (As I said, I thought it was sad how these mothers dressed their daughters up like circus characters).  Still, after Sarah made her rounds and met everyone, she sat down with me and we talked.

I told her that all the little girls were beautiful just like her, but that beauty was on the inside.  I told her that we were there to make new friends and to show them our pretty new clothes.  I told Sarah that all the little girls were there to have fun and dress pretty.  I DID NOT tell her one thing about it being a competition.  Not one thing. 


SarahAge5-2 by you.

Sarah had no idea she was in a competition, and she treated this day and everyone there like a friend.  I was so proud of her.  Most of the other mothers didn't see it that way though.  I just wanted Sarah to have a positive experience and to not be afraid to be out in front of an audience.  I wanted her to be confident - and she was.

The mother's and their daughters took turns going out on stage.  When it was Sarah's turn, I walked onto the runway with Sarah hand-in-hand and then remained in the background while she walked down the main isle with a big smile to show off her pretty new clothes. 

And smile she did.  She did her thing and didn't follow any set rules.   Sarah was Sarah all over the place.  She made my heart sing joyfully.  She waved and smiled to the judges.  She even looked at one of them and said "Don't you think my dress is pretty?"  It was a shining moment in mother-daughter memories.

Sarah ran back to me and I took her hand and we walked off stage.  We did this twice - once for the casual outfit, and once for the more dressy dress, then we all gathered at the foot of the stage - mothers and daughters together, and we took a seat so that the presenters could give out the awards.

I sat down on the floor with Sarah as did all the other mothers and daughters - 45 contestants in all in Sarah's age group - and we waited anxiously.  Sarah did not know what was going on.  She said "Was I pretty Mommy?"  "Sweetheart, you were absolutely beautiful."  Sarah smiled ear-to-ear, sat in my lap and gave me a big hug.  "I love you, Mommy.  I've had a lot of fun today."  "I love you too babydoll."

"What's that?" Sarah said as she pointed to a large table in the back of the runway that was now covered in trophies.  "Those are trophies.  Every little girl will get one because you are all so special."  Sarah smiled.  "Will I get a tiara too?"  I looked at Sarah and I said that I thought only 1 little girl would wear the special tiara but that I would make sure she got one of her own.  Sarah, as usual, smiled and hugged me tight.

SarahAge8-4 by you.

At the microphone was the presenter.  She was announcing the winners of the various categories - Best Dress, Best Casual Outfit, Miss Congeniality, Prettiest Smile, and then they announced the winner of the Miss Personality Award and mentioned Sarah's name.  I nearly fell over.  Sarah ran up on stage and got a little tiara and a trophy that read "Pretty Little Princess Miss Personality 1999."  She ran back to sit beside me and was so excited.  I didn't know what she had won until she sat down because I wasn't paying attention until they called out her name.  I didn't want to get my hopes up.  Sarah could have cared less during the process.  She didn't know it was a competition. 

When I saw that it was for "Miss Personality" I thought that that was so appropriate for my sweet Sarah.  She was full of personality and I was beaming with pride.  So, the presenter began to announce the top winners.  "The third runner up is ..." and we applauded the little girl that won that title and trophy.  "The second runner up is ..." and we did the same, applauding the precious little girl who won that title.

As the little girl was sitting down next to her mother, I couldn't help but think about Sarah and how proud I was of her.  I knew that if her name was not called for first runner up, that the day was exactly as I had planned it - perfect.  Sarah was happy, she made new friends, and she glowed.  It brought tears to my eyes.

SarahAge8-8 by you.

"And the first runner up is ..." and no, the presenter did not call Sarah's name.  So I hugged Sarah, I looked at her "Miss Personality" trophy with her, and I said to her "Sweetie, I am so proud of you.  You will always be my Pretty Little Princess."  Sarah looked at me and said "I know Mommy.  I've had a lot of fun.  Can we get ice cream after?"  "Absolutely" I said while hugging her. 

SarahsPageant-2 by you.

"And the Winner of this year's Pretty Little Princess is ... (and I hugged Sarah closer and kissed her forehead) Sarah Margaret Vaughn!"  "Oh My God!"  I nearly fainted.  Uh, huh?  Did I hear this right?  You're kidding right?  All eyes were on us.  Suddenly, Sarah looked at me, stood up and said "Mommy, can I go get my tiara now?"  I'm still in shock.  "uuuuuh, sure sweetie, uuuuuh, go on up there on the stage."  As Sarah ran to the stage the first thing the presenter did was put a sash over Sarah's dress that read "Pretty Little Princess, 1999"  Then they put a beautiful tiara on her head and Sarah grabbed it to straighten it up.  Then they handed Sarah a trophy that was almost as big as Sarah herself!  So they called me on stage to help her carry it down the isle.  And that is exactly what I did.

SarahsPageant-3 by you.

I crawled on my knees across the stage helping Sarah hold the tall, heavy trophy and keep that tiara from falling off her head. 

SarahsPageant-1 by you.

Suddenly, I had hundreds of eyes on Sarah and on me and they were not all smiles.  I ignored them.  I never told Sarah she was in a competition.  I just told her we were there to have fun - and fun is exactly what we had.  We just happened to win the whole dang thing.

SarahsPageant-4 by you.

Surprised?  Not really.  I didn't expect Sarah to win.  Not at all.  And I didn't prime her to be a pageant winner either.  I just wanted Sarah to be herself and enjoy the process.  Which leads me to the moral of this story - because yes, even though there was no "moral" that I was searching for in the process, it lead to one anyway - to be yourself.  Be true to who you are.  Don't try to be someone or something that you are not.  Be happy for other's successes.  Be humble and gentle of spirit.  Care about others and their feelings.  And smile. You will surely be a winner - no matter where life takes you.

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