My niece Emily is a beautiful girl, both inside and out. The last year and a half has had a lot of changes for her though: her grandmother passed away from lung cancer, her grandfather had a stroke, and my sister and her husband took in 3 of his nephews who were going to be placed into foster care (and they are now in the process of adopting them.) Her husband's sister and her daughter also moved in with my sister. Did I mention that my sister has 4 kids already, two of which are special needs? We lovingly refer to my sister's family as The Duggars. But joking aside, Emily, who is 10 years old, began to get depressed and with the adjustment to her new family life, lost sight of her dreams.
Me, Emily and my sister Courtney
I love my niece to pieces and she has always talked about going to New York. She's heard me talk about my trips to fashion week and to various events and who I've met along the way, so I knew that for her 10th birthday I wanted to surprise her with a trip into the city. With many thanks to Jason Backe and Ted Gibson of Ted Gibson Salon and Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie, I hatched a plan to have Emily's hair done at Ted Gibson Salon, as well as take Em to the top of the Empire State Building with a journal in hand to write down what her hopes and dreams were.
My sister and I were reflecting on how this in-between time has an effect on a young girl's self esteem. Like many girls these days, puberty is hitting some younger than others. This has really had an effect on Emily and she has tried to downplay it by hiding her body under vast layers of clothes, not really taking care of her hair and overall creating a sloppy appearance. While appearance isn't everything, it was clear to me that it was simply a manifestation of how she was feeling on the inside. She didn't want anyone to pay attention to her body changes as girls made fun of her for looking pretty and at the same time would make fun of her if she choose to be sloppy. Either way, kids weren't looking at what a great puppeteer Emily was or how awesome she did in the church drama group. For Em, she just couldn't win. And it hurt her self esteem overall. You can see in many of the pictures before the pampering...Emily never smiles. But once Jill Englesen was done with Emily, check out that smile as she inspected her hair. LOVE it.
What was perfect about Jill styling Emily's hair, is that Jill is an artist. She and Emily talked about how much they love to paint. Throughout our time at the salon, Jill kept encouraging Emily to keep painting no matter what. To keep dreaming and to know that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. I know that Jill really made an impact on Em.
As my tagline says "because we all deserve a little pampering," I wanted to show Em that sometimes pampering yourself physically can sometimes (OK, many times) pamper you mentally and emotionally as well. I wanted her to see and feel for herself what it was like to take care of herself AND feel good about it--who cares about those girls at school! I wanted her to promise to herself that she would see her dreams through, to know that they are important and that she is a very talented and amazing girl.
If there is a girl in your life, whether young or old, be sure to take time to encourage her today. Too many people out there are always trying to bring us down and take away our dreams.
I love you Emily.
Love, Auntie ShannonUPDATE: Since this post Emily suffered a traumatic brain injury while jumping on a trampoline and getting hit in the temple with a soft ball. She was knocked out and had a severe concussion...but it ended up being so much worse than that. She now gets confused if too over stimulated, had to be excused from finishing school this year because the school work was causing her brain to have her mimic stroke symptoms. She can't read, watch TV or use electronics for more than 15 minutes a day. I cannot even begin to tell you that time is precious and I am so glad that I had taken the time back in December to take her on this trip. This young lady is so important and loved by me.