I did what I usually do when my kids do something silly: I snapped a quick video and popped it in a text message to my dear friend, a small consolation for raising my kids away from someone I consider to be my sister.
I giggled at her response, but was then looked up from my phone to see a look of surprise on my daughter's face.
"Did you just send that video to someone?" she asked.
And then it hit me that she's almost nine, not nine months, sometimes a surprisingly hard distinction not due to her immaturity (quite the contrary, actually) but in my own mind, that still sees a baby, my baby, smiling back and me.
Her big adult-toothy grin snaps me out of it.
I'm apologetic. Profusely. I promise her to never do it again, to ask her permission.
She is well aware, perhaps more acutely than I'd wish, of how other see her and how she sees herself, which is both a blessing and a curse.
The mirror is no longer a source of entertainment, but rather a maginfying glass of self-proclaimed flaws, based on pretty princess pictures and Barbie dolls with nary a crooked adult tooth or oddly-placed freckle.
And being silly is no longer cute, or cool, says the magazines and television shows where skirts magically shrink and girls are suddenly googly and giggly and exist solely to interact with the opposite sex.
We corral them off, our girls and boys, whether we know it or not, and send them down their own rivers. And it takes a lot of strength and courage for a little person to swim upstream.
As much as we praise "just-so" and "well-behaved" the greatest thinkers and doers and makers were hardly that. They were freckled and silly and swimming upstream, sometimes exhausted. Sometimes with people telling them to turn around. Or give up already.
The greatest beauties never looked like a Barbie doll, one step above starvation. They had moles and belly fat and an actual ass, at least before we all decided that was ugly and gross.
We're auto-tuning and photoshopping the magic right out of our lives.
In the end, it is her story to tell, to share or not to share, her freckles to hide or wear proudly.
And my job to respect that and protect it, adamantly. Respect given, permission granted. Or not. The stories I've told of her from the beginning will be the last, at least here, anyway,
But I will be there for her, holding placards, and screaming "swim!"
Swim, baby. Swim.