Dora has gotten really good at operating my iPhone. She knows how to use the slider at the bottom of the screen to turn it on, she knows how to use the touchscreen. She's opened apps, sent emails, made phone calls, even changed my settings. All of that is fairly annoying, but one thing she does that I actually find very charming is that she changes the wallpaper picture frequently. Nearly all of the photos on my camera are of her, so it's not hard to pick one that has her as the subject - but I think she picks photos of herself on purpose. It's fun for me to pick up my phone and see what photo she's chosen for me. Right now, it's a sweet summertime picture of her. She's wearing a pink tanktop, green grass all around, her light blond hair blowing in the breeze. She's looking down and smiling, in such a shy, sweet, playful way. I love this photo of her, love that every time I open my phone I see her there, looking 2 years old and 15 years old all at once.
I like to think that Dora is choosing for me the way she wants to be seen, the way she wants me to think of her when we're apart. Isn't that what we all try to do? Don't we all try to pick the most ideal image of ourselves, the one we like the best, and try to become that image in the world? We do it with the foods we eat, the cars we drive, the work we do, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to. We do it with the shows we watch, or those we are willing to admit that we watch.
But just like every other form of communication, an image isn't foolproof. An image can be misinterpreted. You may believe that you are projecting an image of yourself as the kind, considerate, thoughtful, and honest person you believe you are, that you want to be. But sometimes the image doesn't read that way to someone else, even when you do your best. Sometimes it doesn't read that way to ourselves, either. In my mind I'm this creative, kind, patient, balanced mom, but then sometimes I find myself staring into space while Dora watches "Dora the Explorer". Or I allow myself to get dragged away from our 15 minutes of pre-dinner playtime to answer a work phone call. Even for someone with a relatively good self-image, the self-doubt within can sometimes win the day - or at least dominate the internal conversation. When that self-doubt is compounded from outside - from a coworker, a family member, a friend, a stranger - it becomes almost too much to bear.
We try so hard to be the best version of ourselves, to be the person in our favorite photograph of ourselves - the young, healthy, attractive, happy person. We try and rarely do we succeed, but perhaps its the trying that matters. Perhaps its the fact that we create that ideal image and then strive to meet it that makes the difference, even when we so often fall short. As I said recently, having a child forces a level of optimism - something that some of us struggle with. I believe with that comes a requirement to believe that the ideal image of ourselves is attainable, and that even when it is not, as long as we keep that frame in our line of sight, we're succeeding. And on the days when the image is not attainable - when it's out of focus, or has a poor composition, or the lighting is all wrong - on those days we have to forgive - ourselves, the world, the viewer. We have to forgive and we have to remember that tomorrow, we get another chance, another turn behind the lens, another click of the shutter, another chance to get it right.