One of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a parent is let my little ones dress themselves for school. When my daughter was three, we enrolled her in preschool. Dropping her off that first day, I was shocked to discover how little the other parents seemed to care about the appearance of their children. I could maybe get past the lack of color coordination and random accessorizing (Dora tennis shoes with a party dress? Unbelievable). But these parents were letting their kids walk out the door wearing combinations of pajamas, character tees that were two sizes too small, and costumes from last Halloween. Who were these people?
Oh how naive I was! I now understand the will of a three year old when she desperately wants to wear a tutu to school in the middle of winter…and nothing else. When the bar is set that low, any amount of clothing is an improvement, regardless of whether it matches or not. I have seen the glow in my little ones’ eyes when they walk out of their room, ready for the day, wearing all of their favorite clothes layered on top of each other. I have made the mistake of telling a proud toddler that his outfit is inappropriate (yes, that’s actually the word I used). I have learned that in the grand scheme of things, a pattern on pattern ensemble, or wearing the same shirt twice in one week does not reflect poorly on my parenting abilities. Especially when I think back to my own childhood and remember all the ridiculous things my (wonderful) mother allowed me to wear over the years…like in second grade, when my grandma made me a pair of pants and a matching shirt from drapery material that had a pattern of row houses. I wore that outfit at least twice a week, until much to my delight, she made me a second one just like it!!!
Admittedly, I am that obnoxious “know it all” who loves to be right. I care a little too much about what other people think of me, I strive for perfection and tend to be overly critical – of others, as well as myself. I’ve always been this way, which is why I was a little terrified to be a mom. I knew there was no “right” way to do the mommy thing, and there was the very real possibility that I’d be downright terrible. I’ve never been very nurturing or patient. I hate cooking and cleaning. I fast forward through all the songs when I watch Disney movies (even when I was little, those songs drove me nuts). I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to sacrifice, to share, to put myself second – all those things that good moms do.
The minute my daughter was born, those fears melted away. I couldn’t imagine putting anything else before her. She was my world, and she was PERFECT! I couldn’t believe how much I loved being a mom. And I wanted to be the BEST mom! I used cloth diapers (for one week), made homemade baby food (for two days), and I had her on a strict schedule (NEVER – but I really tried). One thing I was able to accomplish however, was keeping my angel impeccably dressed (seriously, I once spent an entire weekend in search of the “right” shoes for a baby who couldn’t even walk).
Then #2 came along. Right from the get go things started to change. Being pregnant wasn’t the same with a toddler. I couldn’t come home after work and take a nap. I had to nourish a picky eater, engage in fun and educational play, and try to follow some sort of bedtime routine. Not to mention the endless housekeeping (I actually made myself watch episodes of “hoarders” as motivation to do the dishes and put away laundry).
I was responsible for a tiny person in that wonderful stage of life where everything revolved around her. And here I was bringing a second tiny person into the mix. I freaked out a little. I was hanging by a thread, and #2 was still months away from being a real threat. I started thinking back to those first few weeks with a newborn, and all of a sudden they didn’t seem as magical as I remembered. Reality set in. How was I going to stay up all night, give him the same love, care and attention I gave to her, and still manage to be a good wife, decent mother, and (gasp) keep my job?
When my son finally arrived (and believe me, I was in no rush!), I didn’t even try to do things the “right” way. In two short years, my daughter had taught me the most important thing about being a mom. She taught me to trust my instincts. She was like no child I read about in any book anywhere. She was the only one with the answers. I had to listen to her. Once I realized this, being a mom became so much easier. And much more enjoyable!
I also realized that I didn’t care as much about what the world thought of me. I didn’t have time to! Now, I’m not completely cured -I still buy coordinating family outfits for Easter, and send out homemade Christmas cards (being very careful not to be too cliché, trendy, or obvious of course) – but for the most part, I have allowed myself to drift farther away from the island of perfection I had been swimming towards my whole life.
Being a mom has brought me back to basics. I’ve had to let go, dig deep, and allow myself to be that girl who wasn’t afraid to wear drapes to school.