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Conversations With My Daughter: Style Edition

m_DSC5534 copyAge 18 months

Liddy fishes my bra out of the laundry basket and spends a long time trying to thread her arms through the straps. She strokes the fabric and presses it to her cheek. “This soff,” she says. “This mine.”

Age two

“AAARRRGGGHHHH,” I hear Liddy bellowing from the windows of my children’s daycare. Inside I find her sitting on the floor, trying to pull on a sock. Other children watch, fearfully, from a distance.

Age three

Liddy is on the floor at Target, weeping “I need it” over something that will not fit her for nine years. A passing woman offers me an I’ve-been-there smile and says, with regard to Liddy, “I have one of those at home.”

Age four

“Liddy, have you seen my eyeliner?”

“What’s eyeliner?”

“A little brown pencil? It was in my makeup bag?”

Liddy stares then turns and walks toward her room to retrieve it. “Don’t see me,” she calls back over her shoulder.

Age five

We are carrying an assortment of little-girl bathing suits into a department store dressing room. Liddy has not been in this setting since her stroller days. (See Age three.) She turns in a circle, taking in the space, and the mirrors reflect her enormous eyes. She whispers, “Do we try them on over our clothes?”

Age six

Liddy falls on the playground and runs to me crying.

“Oh honey are you—” I see the black streaks on her face. “—wearing mascara?”

She shakes her head no but the gesture turns into a nod as she says, “Yes.”

Age seven

“I’m cleaning out my closet,” I explain. “Throwing away things that don’t fit me any more.”

“You should also get rid of things that don’t look good on you,” Liddy says. “Can I make some suggestions?”

Age eight

“What are you wearing to the party?” she asks, staring at the clothes I have set out on the bed.

“That dress.” I answer.

“Oh,” she says “The old lady dress?”

Minutes later

Liddy watches mesmerized as I struggle into my tights. The old lady dress requires Spanx®.

“Are you out of breath?” she asks.

“No,” I say. “A little.”

“Can I write about this in my journal at school?”

Minutes later

“Is that really what you are wearing?” she asks.


She sighs, resigned. “Can I at least do your hair for you?”


Photo by Megan Dempsey

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This entry was written by Karen Dempsey

About the author: Karen Dempsey has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, Babble, and Brain, Child. She lives in Massachusetts. Read her work at or follow her @karenedempsey.

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