“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

My daughter has heard this so many times, it’s ingrained into her right next door to “Your response is your responsibility.”

We’re chatting as we are driving up the I-75 to go camping, just her & I. There’s been a little “hobbit hole” sketched onto this date on our fridge’s family calendar so we could count down the days. The hobbit hole is a basic little A-frame cabin, to upgrade our camping to GLAMping. 

We call this trip her “10 Year Old Talk”. The idea is to break away from the normal day-to-day routine for some special time together where we are given the time & space to have conversations about the changes that come with becoming a young woman & setting intentions in place. It’s like a ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk, but upgraded. This isn’t just about sex, but the fundamentals of that have been covered as well by giving her correct information & to giving it to her FIRST. I want anything else she hears to be compared to what has been laid down by me; not leaving her to form an understanding acquired on playgrounds or at slumber parties.

On the first stop of the drive, I let her pick out a tinted lip balm & tiny eyeshadow palette. Amelie has only ever worn makeup on very special occasions, like a stage performance or maybe a tiny bit for a wedding or formal dance. Now that she’s developing an interest, I’ve decided to let her play with some to celebrate her femininity. We talk about why people wear make-up at all, which becomes an excellent talk about how we make choices about what we wear, and what true beauty is to us. 

Matthew and I were married by an old friend we call Wickham who has worn a suit jacket nearly every day we have ever seen him, short of slope-side skiing. Even if we were going to a beer festival on the river, he always looked impeccable. I asked him about it once when he was heading out on a date. “I know it might have taken her a long time and lot of effort to choose an outfit, do her hair, and make up. I’m honoring that by dressing up as well.” 

I had recognized prior that what we wore altered how we felt and carried ourselves, but in that moment I realized that dressing isn’t always just about us, but also for others. Wickham truly appreciated it when other people dressed well too. I realize this is why we dress up for our special holiday dinners, even when it’s just the family. It’s an avenue for showing respect, appreciation, and honors tradition. Amelie’s style has always leaned towards modesty and as she scoffs at some tops that looks more like bras next to the make-up aisle, I’m relieved not to worry that will be changing over-night any time soon. 

The concept of the “10 Year Old Talk” trip isn’t my own, I learned about it at her school. The idea is to keep things in a positive light so these changes shortly down the road aren’t seen as a curse but rather as an honor. We’re celebrating it! She knows plenty about pregnancy & birth after attending her last two brother’s home births, & we still go back over the basics of periods, anatomy, & puberty too. But, this trip is about more than that. This is about what it means to become a woman and what kind of woman she intends to be. It’s about encouraging her to continue to develop an understanding of who she is and reinforcing how precious and valuable she is. 

Many of her friends and their moms have, or are taking, similar trips. Some will chose a bed and breakfast or a fancy hotel, maybe they’ll go to a spa to celebrate femininity. But, Amelie and I would rather be out in nature than do face masks. So, instead of packing pedicure supplies, I’ve prepped a dry bag with water shoes to visit Rainbow River Springs. 

I admit to her on the drive up that I’m a bit nervous about tubing the springs. Will there be alligators? I’ve been tubing down rivers before, but never in a Florida spring and I was never in charge of knowing where to get off the river, will I miss the signage? I’ve also never driven hours from home to camp overnight without my husband. Sure, we won’t have to pop a tent, so it is very fancy camping, but we’re still sleeping outside with barebones accommodations and it’s a bit intimidating to do so solo. And so, for this reason alone, I know we must be on the right track. We only become courageous by doing courageous things. 

She knows the cabin is on a farm, but she has no idea what surprise is waiting for her inside our hobbit hole. As we pull into the field, her eyes light up. She can’t believe it. And even though I know what to expect, I did book the place after all, I’m a bit in disbelief too. There is a zebra named Zippy and 3 tiny goats in our window! I’ve snuck a large bag of carrots into our snack bag and we’re blowing through them fast. My little animal-lover is on cloud 9 and I’m so glad the wild thunder storm we woke to this morning and rainy forecast didn’t dissuade us from going. A baby goat jumps through the window onto her lap and her laughter is contagious. 

Being a photographer, of course I’d brought a camera along, but an old camera body and a single prime lens so I could take it on the river without too much worry. I try to be aware in these moments of not just taking photos & videos, but of being super present and enjoying it “in real life” too. I think it’s also important for Amelie to not feel like she’s just modeling constantly or being photographed endlessly. Ever since she was little, I’ve been hesitant to ask her to smile for a camera and if I do ask her to pose a bit, I’m cautious to only let it be a couple minutes before we move on. 

I’m striving to keep the balance between documenting our lives while also not watching it happen through the lens of a camera. But it’s hard to not want to take a bunch of photos of this girl of mine with this crazy zebra in our bed! 

I wonder how many people book this spot just for “the ‘gram”. I wonder if I’ll share any of the pictures or videos on social media, and if so, why? We’ve had incredible, memorable experiences that I haven’t shared in the past couple years. Why am I sharing about THIS trip at all here on my blog either? If I tell her beautiful things don’t ask for attention, but then post, am I leading by example or being a hypocrite? Why do any of us post on social media? 

Someone I knew in high school made a YouTube video many years back that “went viral” with millions of views. It was a great video but, from the sidelines, it looks like she’s been chasing it since. All these years “creating content”, but for what? Like most of the more “followed” people I know, she’s divorced. Has anyone else noticed this trend? I wonder, do people with a constant onslaught of affirmation online have trouble with humility in their real lives? This viral YouTube girl from high school posted an Instagram reel recently, pushing 40 years old, where she’s twerking in a tennis skirt on a tennis court and I my heart sort of sunk for her. I realized perhaps no one ever told her that beautiful things don’t ask for attention. 

Is my daughter with a zebra a low-key tennis court twerk?

I don’t think so, and here’s why. I’m sharing this story carefully and full of wonder. I write this to share what I’ve learned or found interesting in hopes it helps someone in similar shoes. But, mostly, I share on this blog to document, process, and remember important things: like moving cross-country or the births of my children. And finally, I share in an attempt to connect in real life. I don’t want 5,000 followers from China. I want the people I might bump into in real life to read this and feel a bit more like they know me and can be comfortable with me. I want honest friendships with moms in Sarasota. I want to cut the crap and get right to the heart of things, to connect and feel less lonely. I met at a mom at her summer camp’s final performance who said “Oh, and I read Atticus’ birth story!”. It instantly puts me at ease and opens my heart. It’s hard to make adult friends. We’re all so busy with our families (& we don’t get invited to so many dinner parties anymore now that ours is so big!). The screens feel like an avenue for connection, even authentic connection, but those paths are hidden in a sea of garbage. 

I consider this as I refuse to give our children tech/social media. It’s addictive. Even when I’m not posting, I still catch myself checking my IG multiple times a day. I’m addicted as an adult, how can we expect kids to handle it? But, I don’t want a daughter who doesn’t have TikTok just because her parents won’t let her have a phone. I want a daughter who doesn’t have a TikTok because she’s too busy in her real life with real connections to people. She can share all she wants when she’s old enough to make that choice for herself but I do hope respects herself far too much to put on empty shows for utter strangers online. When the time comes, my wish for her is that she shares things that are good, true, and beautiful. 

The rain doesn’t let up on the drive in the morning and two lightning strikes pop in front of us as we pull into the tubing entrance to the park. Feeling defeated, we can either head back to the hwy or try our luck skirting further towards to coast as we make our way back down south. We decide to be bold and, as it turns out, the skies clear as we stop at another spring. 

We have no idea what to expect but find ourselves on a magical boat ride to a nature trail packed with native animals (instead of packed with people, thanks to the rain). We still get to see manatees up close and personal and it’s more perfect a day then I could have planned had I known where we were going. She holds my hand on the boat back to the car and leans her head on my shoulder, tells me how much fun this has all been and how happy she is. She’s been an absolute gem the whole trip and as she blasts Jason Mraz while playing DJ in the car, I realize for the 83,456th time in the past ten years that she is everything I could have wanted in a daughter and then some. I feel so refreshed and recharged & I realize maybe this trip wasn’t just for her at all. We both got plenty of time to explore thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It’s all been a good reminder for me too. It’s our adventure and we will always remember it. And this post will help. 

I gave her all of my attention for two days so we could truly connect & talk. We’re following up on prior conversations and opening up new ones so they can continue to flow. Not just for the trip, but indefinitely. We may not have a full day with an attentive zebra on hand, instead it might be a bedtime tuck-in with a baby on my lap that lasts an extra 20 mins, but she knows I’m always here and I’m going to be all ears when she needs me most. And that’s just the kind of mom I aim to be so if we bump into each other in real life, hold me to it.