Getting Real With Mary Swan-Bell

Lily, my five-year-old whirlwind, loves to hone her fashion designing skills. Unfortunately, sometimes her materials of choice leave something to be desired. Let me be more specific: Two of her favorite textiles are tissues and plastic bags. Ugghhhhhh. Whenever she begins one of these endeavors, I immediately develop an ulcer.

Obviously, given the disposable nature of these materials, the end result is NEVER what she has envisioned in her idealistic little mind. Hence, as the project comes to fruition, frustration leads to anger, which ultimately leads to tears and occasional door slamming. Lily usually gets pretty upset too.

So what is a trying-to-be-good mom supposed to do under these circumstances? I certainly don’t want to squelch her blossoming talents, but I absolutely know how it’s going to end. “Oh, that’s a great idea, honey, but I’m not sure if taping the tissue to your head is going to result in the Arabian princess mask look you want.”


“Hmmmm, for starters, the tape probably won’t stick too well. And then, if it does, it will probably pull your hair out when you take it off.”

“Can I cut this hair off?”

“That’s probably not a good idea.”



“Because when the hair starts growing back, it will stick out and look funny and we won’t be able to put your hair in ponies.”

“I don’t care.”

And that is when the ulcer starts to bleed.

I’m not really well known for my patience. Especially with Lily, who definitely should have been born first when I was young and naïve and had more energy. But here she is, keeping my brain young and my stomach in knots. So, I make a few additional helpful suggestions: “Wanna play memory?” “Would you like a cookie?” “If you scrap this idea, I’ll take you to DisneyWorld!” Alas, nothing distracts her from her ultimate goal, and she pipes up with, “I’ll just use string instead of tape!” Excellent idea. Have you ever tried to tie string to a tissue? It’s a rocking good time.

But we manage to do it, she dons her Jasmine mask and twirls around happy and satisfied with her creation. I smile at her, take her picture, swallow a few stomach pills and then I’m happy too.