Back-to-school – a Mom’s perspective

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Oscar Wilde

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It has happened. In the days leading up to back-to-school, I saw my elder girl, Elizabeth, getting anxious. My ever forgetful, grass-stained knee absent minded professor type of kid had turned into a girl beneath my very eyes. She grew taller and thinner. Her front teeth have grown in giving her face a slightly older look. She is brushing her hair and picking out skirts to wear every day. Although still young enough to try and fit her doe-like limbs into my lap, the rolling of the eyes have started. “Mooommm…I know!” A shrill whine will unleash as I ask her to please remember to pick up her pyjamas off the floor, again.

It became so clear to me that she was on the cusp between young child and girlhood when we went shopping for back-to-school outfits. I had decided to make it a girls-only affair, leaving Mr. L with Jacob and taking Elizabeth and Audrey with me. Elizabeth made a beeline for the dresses at The Children’s Place. Snatching four of them off the rack she proceeded to twirl each of them to see which one would win.

Audrey, being five and a half years old, stood back unsure of where to go. Seeing Elizabeth muttering to herself, I took Audrey over to some sparkly skirts and asked her to pick her favourite. Still overwhelmed by the choice, I picked a few and told her to pick one. Asking her what kind of top she wanted, she deferred to my judgement and we found a some practical t-shirts that she could mix-and-match with other outfits. She told me to stop for a minute and asked to look at them. My thoughtful younger girl was matching colours in her head having an obsession with wearing clothes that are matched to precision. Leaving her I returned to my seven and a half year old who was preening herself in front of a mirror holding up one dress, then another as she tried to strike a variety of model-like poses. At least it was narrowed down to two dresses for this performance.

Sighing, I had to wonder what this year ahead held in store for her. I am the type of Mom who prefers jeans, nice tops and shoes or lululemon wear. I have been known to wear some funky outfits and like to dress up like any other woman, but I do not get heart palpitations over shopping.

“Mom,” Elizabeth turned around. “Can I try these both on? I just have to see which one twirls the best while wearing it.”

“No honey,” I said looking at the time and knowing I still needed to find Jacob a few items and wanted to hit the nearby shoe store in our short time. “I am sure both will fit, you can decide from here. We don’t have much time.”

Then I heard it. “But MOM!! I just have to. PLEASE?? I have to know which twirls the best!” The beginning of my oldest daughter reaching that point where I changed from the Mom who wears the golden crown and knows best, to the Mom who has no idea what her life is like if she does not try on both dresses. I was and am not ready for it.

“No,” I repeated more firmly knowing I would have to hold my breath and hold fast in my decisions from now on. “You have a couple more minutes to decide and then we are leaving.”

Turning around, I went back to Audrey who had made a decision and I took her with me to grab a new shirt and pants for the little guy. Turning back towards the mirror, Elizabeth was gone. As my heart stopped, I saw her heading towards the change rooms, a determined look on her face. With a big breath, I caught her by the arm and said to her quietly but very, very firmly, “I said no. What are you doing?”

“But I just HAVE TO!” she whined. “It’s right here, I’ll be just a minute.” Snatching both dresses I took them back to the rack. Following me, she realized I meant business. “Fine, I will decide right now.” She grabbed the blue flowery one. “But you do think it twirls the best don’t you?”

Sighing again as we walked to the cashier, making a quick stop at the headbands, (On a side note; headbands are the new Beanie Boos in our house. We have tons that were never worn until a few weeks ago and then all of sudden, every outfit has to have a matching headband.) I paid for our back-to-school outfits and headed to the van. Turning out of the parking lot onto the street it started. The girls asked why we weren’t going to the shoe store. I told them we had taken too long to decide on their outfits and ran out of time. You would think their pet dog died. Sentences were thrown my way. They could not POSSIBLY go to school without new knapsacks (and their old ones though a bit worn are fine) Elizabeth needed a new pair of sparkly Sketcher shoes. Would I like it if all the kids laughed at them because their knapsacks had holes in them? I bit my tongue and told them, “We are going home and I may take you out again when you learn to appreciate the clothes we just bought.”

In truth, I was exhausted from going to one store and my patience had grown very thin. It was also pretty close to the time we needed to be back for dinner and I needed a break.

Both girls were sent to their room for yelling at me in the van and ceasing to whine upon a couple of warnings. Their clothes were confiscated. After a while a contrite Elizabeth came downstairs, “We’re sorry. Can we have our clothes back now? I’ll listen better when we go to a store.”

“I’ll think about it.” I told her giving her a hug.

The first day of school came and went. Yes, their new outfits were worn and the dress twirled beautifully. Their headbands admired by all. I smiled picking Elizabeth up from the bus on the first day of school as she came off the bus, typically dishevelled with items being carried and her new knapsack open. She had grass stains on her pants.

“Mom, I’m sorry. We were playing in the grass and it just happened.” She looked nervous looking up at me and I knew that although I get glimpses of the girl that is blossoming with all the good and not so good that may come along, she is still a little kid, my little kid.

“It’s okay,” I told her carrying her heavy knapsack then watching as she followed her brother and sister as they ran down the sun-filled sidewalk to our house yelling like angry fairies and giggling.

After all, they were just clothes.

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