It was wedding season.
I love weddings. Weddings have just about everything I enjoy in life: fresh flowers. The chance to wear a fancy dress. Dinner conversation with strangers. And cake.
(Also love, and affection, and a lifelong vow between two people to cherish everything they hold dear, but mostly the cake.)
Because the thing is, I had a six-year-old and an eighteen-month-old and I knew with a deep and blessed assurance that one of them was not going to make it through the entire wedding.
And by that, I do not mean the baby.
My six-year-old, Scarlette, is a completely free spirit. I spend a lot of my life trying to balance allowing her to flourish in her unique God-given personality while also trying to teach her things like having a sense of decorum in public places.
Or, as I wrote in my first book, “shaping a spirited soul without breaking it.”
We practiced her flower girl walk for weeks, mostly because the original effort involved her forcefully hurling faux flower petals at the rows of stuffed animal guests I had lined up along the makeshift aisle, and so her technique needed a little fine-tuning, I think.
Her baby brother, Ridley, followed dutifully along behind her, picking up every single discarded flower petal while mournfully crying, “Oh no no no! Oh no no no!” and then promptly depositing them back in her flower girl basket where he felt very strongly that they must remain.
Clearly, my children are not cut from the same cloth here.
When it came time for the actual wedding, Ridley toddled all the way up to the edge of the chapel, took one look at the expectant faces of the wedding guests, and promptly turned tail and ran screaming towards the woods.
After a bit of coaxing, he was persuaded to plod back up the aisle alongside his cousin, where he stopped every six steps to point at the whatever happened to catch his eye.
Scarlette came behind him, daintily dropping petals along the path until she reached the very front of the chapel, where she stopped abruptly, looked at the petals still left in her basket, shrugged her shoulders, and then the dumped them in a pile and tossed the basket aside as she pranced to her spot on the stone steps.
Then the baby yelled “Oh no no no,” shrugged out of my husband’s grasp and made a run for the pile of petals in an attempt to put them all back where they belonged and return the discarded basket to his sister.
The bride hadn’t even made it down the aisle yet.
I’d just like to tell you that the rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch.
I’d like to tell you that.
But I can’t.
Because when it came time to light the unity candle, the moment was accompanied by a country song set to a chorus of strings. Which apparently to my whimsically imaginative child sounded like an invitation to perform a lively, interpretive ballet.
I mean, I’m assuming that’s why she suddenly decided to twirl herself into the center aisle waving her arms and spinning on pointed toes like a prima ballerina and then bunny-hopping back across the stage.
She doesn’t actually do ballet but that is neither here nor there. I guided her back to her spot by the steps with my highly practiced laser beam mom-look and a few frantic whispers, where she proceeded to heed all of my directions to stand quietly by enthusiastically concluding her impromptu performance with a wide bow.
And after that little interlude, the rest of the wedding went off without a hitch.
(Except for that one part where the bride and groom kissed and Scarlette yelled out, “WHAT?! EWWWW!”)
After the wedding, I emailed the photographer and asked for these specific pictures. We have loads of beautifully framed, gorgeous shots from the wedding but these are the ones I will cherish, when my family and a whole host of guests embraced the wild spirit of my six-year-old and simply let her dance.
It would have been so easy to squelch her spark in that moment, and quite probably appropriate for the setting, but instead they collectively, unspokenly decided to gift her this moment.
And I kind of hope that she always approaches life with that sort of confident, wild abandon.
I want to her be polite, well-mannered, and kind.
But I also want her to be boldly confident in who she is.
In who she was created to be.
I know that as she grows her unique personality will shift and mature along with her, and that one day she’ll attend a wedding and stand quietly with her hands folded, slightly swaying as the music plays.
But right now, today, she hears the music and she dances.
And it is a gift.