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Monday, September 7, 2015

Small Packages

Small Packages

The start of summer. A rough year of school ended and with its end, a path was illuminated for us both. An open-ended few months together that I tried not to overplan. There were a few camps, some swim lessons, playdates with friends, and the monotonies of everyday errands to accomplish. But there would be more time this year, I told myself, to savor the exquisite simple moments together as mother and son.

The messy crafts and treasure hunts around the house. Telling secrets in the closet with a flashlight. Reading underneath our favorite tree in the front. Bike rides to the “magic” cul-de-sac, where notes from Disney characters and small trinkets just happened to appear in the trees every now and then. Throwing rocks at our special spot at the creek. Magic afternoons that would curve and wind the way they wanted them to, without beginning nor end as we played and laughed and discovered each other even more so.

Take it in, I prepared myself. Take these moments to memory. Breath them in. Childhood is fleeting. Make it all count.

Seven years old. God. The extra syllable makes its way off my tongue hesitantly. Knowingly. There is no turning back. This may be the last summer when innocence lights the way. When magic still overpowers the stress of school and social expectations. When my soft body is a welcomed home base. The end is nearing. Remember these days.

Despite best laid plans, maturing attitudes and middle-aged childhood priorities took precedence. Jadedness edged into the picture. Grocery shopping scavenger hunts were met with boredom. Hide and seek afternoons were exchanged for alone time in bedrooms. Sass and moodiness dictated activities. Special excursions lost their meaning after so many times. A tide was already shifting and we both knew it.

But, there was still perspective, and you were still small. Born with a condition that caused slow growth, you were always smaller than peers. Healthy, but diminutive. A tortoise and hare race amongst other children. Despite a mature brain and precocious goals, there was still the soft down on your naked back. Baby teeth contently intact. Tiny clothes that I could still fold delicately while laundering. Teeny feet that fit preciously into one hand. And with your small statue, a need for occasional help with things other seven year olds mastered long ago. Holding your hand while stepping out of a carseat. A little extra cheating while playing ball so you could reach better. Training wheels in no rush to come off.

And today, that extra push on a swing. You haven’t quite got the physical force to master it yet, despite your age and our encouragement. I’ve never wanted to baby you. But today, you ask for that push. I stand behind you and press my palms against your small back. You have lived so long now, it seems, but your tiny back feels timeless  - the many hours spent patting it after feedings and lifting you out of a crib seem like yesterday. Today, despite cynicism, you chose to dress up in a cape, a bright vestige of naïveté. And today, despite so much independence in such a small package, you chose to be pushed. I stand behind you and relish each gentle rock. So long ago, we’d sway back and forth to get you to sleep as a newborn. We melded together like melting candles, no beginning and no end to our own identity.

 Today, things are different. You are so distinctly your own person. So independent. So mature. So wise beyond your small package of a body. But perhaps you still need me every now and then to push you through the moments that still present a challenge. Perhaps the closure of childhood is never a definite end but rather a profound pendulum swing, a process of pushing you so brilliantly into the light, and accepting you back into my arms when you need to come falling back. This. This is the moment, the motion, I will put to memory, so I may remember how to always stand behind to catch your fall, no matter how many summers we cross together as you grow. This. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

On the Brink

Every afternoon, it is the same cycle of emotions. I stand at the bus stop, eagerly awaiting the return of my kindergartener and his bright smile. I am antsy with anticipation and picture our reunion – the two of us holding hands back to the house, and sharing stories about our day over cookies and milk. Sometimes, this does happen. But most days, I watch passively as my son steps off the bus and toward me, slightly unrecognizable than the Aidan I know. He appears to be my son, yet there is something unfamiliar about the boy that stands in front of me, as if aliens kidnapped him for the day and returned him to the same spot mostly unbothered. He is dressed in the same clothes he put on in the morning, but they are slightly disheveled, like a businessman who has already rolled up his sleeves and undone his tie. Crumbs around his mouth serve as evidence of some classmate’s birthday celebration. His jacket is strung around his torso, as if he was rushing to pack up for the day, unlike the meticulous way my husband and I make sure he is dressed in the morning. A shoe is untied. He smells of school supplies and cafeteria cleaning products. There is a patch of crusty glue in his hair. His fingers are dirty with marker residue. He looks mildly happy to see me, but not overly enthusiastic about it, and I lead him into the house, picking up the strewn shoes, backpack, and crumpled note from his friend as I order Aidan to wash his hands. I sit at the kitchen table as he devours a snack, drilling him with what seems like a thousand questions about his day. “I don’t remember,” Aidan mutters in between mouthfuls of pretzels. 

He lets me look through his wrinkled pile of worksheets and journal entries before running off into his playroom. “I gotta go, bye!” he echoes down the hallway. Aidan’s obsession is drawing, and I can tell that he has had “withdrawal” all day, so I let him sketch and draw at his desk while I tidy up his backpack litterings and unload the dirty Tupperware from his lunchbag. I go in a few times to admire his latest sketches of pirates or Disney characters and steal a kiss, but I try to respect his need for this personal downtime before it’s time to start the homework-cooking-dinner-bath-bed marathon of each evening. While I load the dishwasher and wipe the countertops clean after dinner, I happily let my son and husband play and talk together. They’ve missed each other as much as I’ve missed them, and I dare not intrude on the small snippet of time they have together during the week. Trudging up the stairs later at night when it’s time for my own bedtime, I linger in Aidan’s room for my last check-in. His books and flashlight have been tossed at the foot of the bed, and he finally has fallen asleep. Here is the place where I finally feel unrushed to spend time with my little boy, even if he may not know it. I kiss his warm cheeks and brush his hair and kiss him some more. Up close, he still looks like my newborn baby – all soft puffy cheek and milky-colored thin skin. But as I step away, I realize how big he’s gotten. His limbs sprawl all over the twin-sized bed, covering the majority of the mattress. I stand over him like a shadow and the awareness of his metamorphosis into being a middle-aged child hits me hard. We are on the cusp, teetering delicately between the innocence and simplicity of youth and something larger, bigger, and much more complicated. I enjoy having an older child, but there is something about elementary school – the institution and routine of it, that has hardened the innocent edges of my little boy. There is something a little more jaded in him, a little more street-wise. Things are just different. It’s both kind of cool and terrifying. I feel like we are inching up to the peak of a roller coaster precipice, unable to get off. I kiss Aidan one more time and head to bed. 

Yesterday, during our regular walk back from the bus stop, Aidan’s weariness quickly fades into tears. His huge brown eyes well with water and his tiny face crumbles into an infant-like cry. Thankfully, he shares the reason with me. A boy on his bus, angry that Aidan would not share a toy, told Aidan that when he grows up, he will use a gun on him and that his policeman Daddy has a gun and he’s going to arrest Aidan and shoot him. Mature and babylike at the same time, Aidan cries out, “and I just can’t get that image out of my head. I’m scared!” he wails. Trying my best to control my own primal emotions, I comfort Aidan and try to ease his imagination. For awhile, my baby has returned to me. He sits on my lap and nibbles Goldfish as he sniffles up his tears. Feeling better, he gets through the rest of the day, but is haunted by his busmate’s threat at bedtime. I absolutely hate that my small son had to experience such a terrible image. I feel nauseous thinking that my baby now has knowledge of such a violent and scary scene, however irrational it may be. I crawl into bed with him and help him fall asleep. I must admit that there is a tiny piece of me that is grateful for feeling so needed, and for having my little boy restored. Having an empty nest during school hours, my role as a mother has been redefined, and often feels blurry – a constant cycle of feeling certain about what I’m supposed to be doing and wondering if there’s something else I should be doing. But at this moment, it is more clear than ever. No matter how old my child is getting, I’m simply just supposed to be there. There. Not teaching, disciplining, monitoring. Just being there. Continuing to be the soft spot for him to fall, the steady reassurance in an increasing world of ambiguity. 

At night, my husband and I discuss what to do about the situation. My impulse is to tell the principal or at least the bus driver; his impulse is to remind me that these things are going to happen, and that we have to simply let them happen. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I know it’s true. There are going to be fights, threats, disagreements, embarrassments, failures, and lots more scary things. And part of our job now is to help Aidan figure out how to deal with them, and perhaps not come to his rescue as we would have when he was younger. I hesitantly agree to keep quiet about the incident but inform someone if it happens again. But mostly, I try to calm my queasiness over my child having to be so upset about something. It feels like a raw, bloody wound atop his youthfulness. 

This morning, Aidan happily gets ready for school. I am nervous if he may be a bit hesitant to ride the bus or interface with this other boy, but luckily he dons his Star Wars backpack and asks for help with his shoes, as always. “Ugh, you’ve got to start doing this yourself!” we mutter to him about his laziness about putting his own shoes on. Secretly, it feels selfishly good. I cusp his little socked feet and lead them into his Buzz Lightyear light-up sneakers. I wish I could cover his entire body, heart, and soul with a maternal shield as I send him out into the world everyday. But I can’t. Lacing up his sneakers, holding his hand to cross the street, and keeping hope in my heart for his safety and happiness is all I can do. It has to be enough for both of us. We trail to the bus stop. 

“I wonder if Captain Hook got my letter!” Aidan wonders excitedly aloud the way he has every day lately. One week ago, we took him to Disney World for the first time. As mature he has gotten lately, it was refreshingly joyous to see him sitting atop his Daddy’s shoulders waving to each and every character dancing down the parade routes and eagerly announcing who was coming next. There is still innocence, I remember thinking about my big boy. There is still hope for it to last awhile longer. I wave to Aidan and watch the yellow bus travel down the road. I walk back to the house. The feeling of being apart from your child never seems to get any easier. No matter how many times I will wave good-bye to him as he leaves me each morning and as I head back up the driveway, alone with my thoughts, it will always feel like a tender, thumping piece of heart has still been ripped away from me. I go inside and take out some red construction paper and a black pen, trying my best to disguise my handwriting for Captain Hook’s. I tear the edges of the paper, roll the letter and tie it with twine, and put it in the mailbox to await my son’s return. I hope that today was a better day for Aidan. I hope that no one scares him, hurts him, or chips away at his happiness. I hope that he will innocently skip to the mailbox when he gets home and beam that Captain Hook has indeed written back to him, and save the letter forever. I hope.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rain Dance

Written a few years ago.

I am beginning to think that those who write a lot about parenting are mistaken for those that think they have all the answers. Since the birth of my son, a dramatic entrance of a new world entirely, all I seem to think and write about is motherhood and the ways in which my son continues to evoke transformation in me. Perhaps this sometimes can come across as if I, you know, actually know what I am talking about. But I am the first one to admit that when it comes to motherhood, my heart is humbly speckled with open, raw voids; curious abysses waiting to be filled with a certainty and knowledge that, in the end, I know only my son can provide for me.  I look to him as my guide in the quest for these truths, and write my way to make sense of the lessons he bestows.  

As a mother and person in general, I am absolutely terrible at flexibility. I prefer my palms to be firmly gripped around the rigidity of the schedule, expectations, and outcomes that I deem appropriate. It makes me feel powerful, in control, and oddly at ease. I am uncomfortable with the open-endedness that often comes with having a young child to keep busy and entertained every day. I feel like Aidan thrives better when we have definite plans to stick with, and when intentions are thrown off or rescheduled, I find myself a little lost in the empty space that leaves itself open for interpretation and imagination, despite my son’s immensely rich creative spirit. Going with the flow is just something I can’t seem to do well. 

It is a drizzly, unseasonably cool Tuesday at the start of summer and my son’s plans for a pool playdate with his preschool class has just been cancelled. He’s missed his class buddies since school let out several weeks prior and was looking forward to seeing everybody again. As the rain steadily increases to a humid downpour, I decide to treat Aidan to a movie and popcorn. Aidan’s been fearful of the theatrics of movie theaters in the past, so we’ve waited a good year to try again. This time, he is familiar with the characters in the movie sequel, and I wait until the last minute to bring him into the actual theater to avoid intimidating previews and loud commercials. We don our crappy sandals and head into the car and down the road to our local theater, windshield wipers slushing the water away as damp hair curls around my ears from the mugginess. Driving in the rain has always felt so romantically blue to me, and it is no different with my son. I love taking Aidan on private dates, just the two of us to create sacred and private memories. 

We run into the theater holding hands and dodge the pouring rain, buy our buttery popcorn, and enter into the movie. I am enjoying the start of my mother-son date so much that I don’t even realize the previews haven’t started yet. Aidan sees a friend from school and we make our way over to her and her mother. I chat, and nosh at the tip of my popcorn bag, not even noticing that the previews have begun, and that Aidan is starting to tense up at the loud sound effects. He starts to get more nervous as a big animated bear roars across the screen and, despite my hand on his tiny back, Aidan is frightened and pleading to leave. We shuffle ourselves out of the aisle immediately, spilling our snacks in bits along the way. At once, I feel bad for my young son yet embarrassed at his inability to calm down. I feel the hot flashes of others staring sympathetically for us as we step on their feet and as I accidently smack my pocketbook against them. I think back to the beginning days of Aidan’s existence as a baby and young toddler, where my husband and I would simply have to pick up and go, sweaty and frazzled.  And as I sit out in the lobby with Aidan as he eats his popcorn, trying my best to be patient with his trepidation whilst encouraging him to try again, I am hit with a sudden white hot awareness of my own selfishness as a mother; for being annoyed at wasting all the money I just spent, for not getting to explain ourselves to our friends back in the theater, for feeling irritated about ruined intentions and a whole day ahead of us with nothing else lined up, and for realizing I can sometimes be so wrong about what’s right for my son. 

We trudge home in the rain. With nowhere else to go, we sit at the kitchen table and finish our bags of popcorn in silence, staring at each other. I don’t know why I always struggle with changed or ruined plans when it comes to Aidan’s life. I don’t know why I always feel so deflated at their outcomes, even when my son seems perfectly content going with the flow and moving on. The rain is steady outside, and the silence at the table is thick, apart from the nibbling crunches of our stale yet yummy popcorn. “Well, I don’t know what else you want to do now,” I sigh, immediately regretting my tone. Of all the things I may do right as a mother, this icy rigidity to expectation and disappointment in plans gone awry seems to negate everything else.

Aidan licks the powdery butter off of his teeny fingers and replies. “We could play in the rain?” he casually suggests, as if he was holding out on me, saving his simple epiphany for this very appropriate moment, a moment like many others in his mother’s inflexible life. I peek outside at the endless summer downpour and realize that my son has never really played outside in the rain before, a detail that shakes me enough to surrender to my son’s modest wisdom without holding onto my hesitation. We step outside on the driveway with bare feet and already-soaked through clothes and my disappointment in the day washes from under me. In its place, I feel invigorated by submitting myself to Aidan’s leadership. I ask him what he wants to do in the rain, and he guides. He jumps into the gray, dirty puddles of the driveway’s valleys and dips, struts intensely into superhero poses, and instructs me to follow his lead in silly, elaborate dance moves. My pointless feelings of frustration or loss of control over the day and my son’s activities are behind me, and as the humid, sticky rain soaks through my clothes, make-up, and down to my bones, I feel youthful and humbled under my son’s simple joy. I feel gratitude for the simplicity that he has given to the day without much planning or fuss. 

I look up at his four-year-old body and its nuanced mannerisms, and feel ashamed that it’s taken me this long to let him play unabashedly in the rain; such an archetypal image of childhood that I perhaps have robbed him of all this time. But soaking and renewed under the wet sky, I finally understand that this moment in time needed to happen exactly the way it did; and that, as always, it is my son who has brought me to this place and sacred shared moment together. My flaws as a mother have less to do with rigidity, and everything to do with my own hungry need for control. If it were not for altered plans, or scary movie previews, or the open-ended horizon of the rainy afternoon, this blessed experience would have never happened. Have more moments like this christening been wasted under my firm and irrational grip on routine? How many other times have I let my own self-interest drown out Aidan’s simplistic voice of reason? 

When we finally come in from the rain, I let Aidan strip naked in the garage and wrap him in a huge bath towel. I am drenched as well, but I cradle his swaddled, big boy body on the couch so he can warm up. It’s funny, I think, that I am usually the type of parent who welcomes my child’s growing up and maturity, yet every night after bathtime, my husband and I still wrap Aidan in the same hooded towels he’s had since newbornhood; his one last vestige of infancy. Every night we swoop him up in that blanket and stare down at his black eyes shining up at us like they did so long ago, and I am transported back to Aidan’s first few moments of life – a wet and warm brand new baby, a vulnerable person looking to me for guidance and direction. And every time holding the refreshed newness of my damp boy-child baby, it feels like I have just given birth again. But on the couch, as the rain continues to beat down and as Aidan and I look at each other’s glistening, slicked skin, I think of how wrong I have been. On this day, it is me who has been rebirthed by Aidan, and perhaps it has taken me all this time to realize that every day with this boy is a new beginning for me, to try again and to follow alongside him with newly awakened, humbled eyes.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Every Future Mom I’ll Ever Meet

      Hi future fellow mom. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Debra. We’ve just met at some kid function. Maybe it was while waiting at the sidelines at an extracurricular activity or during a PTA event at school. Perhaps we struck up a conversation in the pediatrician’s waiting room. Or maybe we exchanged a few bits of dialogue in the frozen aisles of the grocery store buying dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. In any event, I thought I would give you a bit of a heads-up about myself before we dive into anything that even closely resembles a female friendship. You see, I am a bit strange. I wanted to give you fair warning so that there are no surprises.

      Allow me to explain. Some women come into motherhood and assimilate into their new friendships with fellow moms quite naturally. For them, maybe there is no thought behind the process at all. These are the women who had a big group of friends during childhood, who were able to juggle their cheerleading and yearbook and student council responsibilities with their weekend partying. They had boyfriends and actual school spirit. They joined sororities and made quick friends with their college roommate and posed for pictures at parties with their arms around fellow girls. They delightfully planned their weddings with gaggles of friends and included them all as bridesmaids. They laughed together in limousines to celebrate someone’s bachelorette party. They like wine and hug each other hello and goodbye even when they’ll see each other in a week. And when these women have their babies, they walk into the scary, shaky world of parenting together, hooking elbows and embracing a new female bond together.

      You see, the deal is that I wasn’t one of those girls. In fact, I was quite the opposite. The kind of teenager reminiscent of mid-90’s indie flicks about loser teenagers. I rolled my eyes at school spirit and scribbled away in my poetry notebook and tried to get by with as little social interaction as possible. Sure, I had friends, but not without the awkwardness and anxiety that came with being a sullen teenage girl trying to maintain said friendships. Over time, I realized I got along much better with guys. There seemed to be no drama, no social butterflies, no pressure to make total sense all the time. They didn’t care about how you did your hair or how many friends you actually had. Guys were more cynical, sarcastic, dark, and quiet. And amazingly, I happened to fall in love with one of them. I married him and had his baby.

      When I had my son, there was nothing more I wanted to do than make stay-at-home motherhood a full time career and make a great life for the two of us during the week. I was so excited to take my very curious baby to all the storytimes and library infant classes and programs and see that there were others like me – new moms who were strung out and befuddled at how grueling parenthood could be. Like any new mom, I just sought solace. And when I encountered fellow moms, perhaps I occasionally got a little too excited. I joined multiple playdate groups and attended everything, and introduced myself eagerly and naively. And maybe my social shortcomings manifested in ways I didn’t realize until it was too late. There have been times I didn’t realize I said something too bluntly. Perhaps the times I was being spacey and in my own head made other moms misinterpret me for being rude. I had wanted to be a mother more than anything, but I wasn’t prepared for the social game that often follows.

      Before I became a parent, I would have never thought about how being around fellow moms can unfortunately be so like high school sometimes. There are cliques, judgment, gossip, silent assessments and the sizing up of others. But in order to entertain and socialize our children, we all need to be around other moms and form friendships, regardless of our comfort level with that task. A mom who may walk a little off the beaten path, or is an oddball in one way or another may be talked about, excluded, not invited, defriended. Someone we thought we’ve bonded with can become a stranger all too soon. I guess that’s true for all moms. But in spite of all this, there is hope for us weirdos. There is hope for all of us. For every mom that can’t relate to you, there is one out there that can. There are great women who will accept you for who you are, who have enough of a sense of humor to know when you are being sarcastic and when you’re not, who aren’t too sensitive, who don’t mind if you have opposite tastes and dissimilar interests, who can engage in conversation with you even if you seeing things totally differently. There are hundreds of fellow moms who like you just the way you are, and who are happy to talk about the joys and hardships of parenthood with someone else and not let personality quirks and social idiosyncrasies get in the way.

      So, fellow mom I’ve just met – you can’t say I didn’t warn you. If you see me again, you’ll know I may not be exactly like you. I am a loner yet extremely talkative at once, a strange and confusing combination. I can be very uptight. When I get really passionate about something, I can’t stop talking. I’d rather sit on the couch with my husband watching some independent movie that nobody’s ever heard of than going out for a“Girl’s Night.” Sometimes I don’t think before speaking and I don’t make much sense. We won’t like the same musicians or actors. I like solitude and fear social gatherings. I may not always agree with you. I have a really hard time with small talk but I am happy to discuss the heavy stuff all day. I don’t fluff the truth or lie. I have no concept of what’s popular or trendy. I hate talking on the phone. Sometimes I may appear distant. Like I said – I’m a little strange.

      But if we do become friends, what you’ll also get is someone who will always be loyal and honest. I’ll bake you muffins when you’ve just had surgery and I’ll sit with you for hours at Starbucks to let you vent about a big problem. I’ll offer a different perspective on things. I’ll give you advice if you ask for it. I’ll always be willing to let your kids come play at our house and make a mess. I’ll offer to babysit. I’ll make you laugh. I’ll remember everything you tell me. I won’t judge or be catty. I’ll write you heartfelt thank you emails or letters when you’ve been a good friend and fellow mom. Because - we’re all in this crazy parenting thing together, and maybe we’re all a little weird to begin with. And we’ll be better moms for trying to get to know each other, no matter how different we all are.

Yours Truly,

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edible Aquarium featured at Hands on: As We Grow

I'm pleased that Hands on: As We Grow selected one of my sensory/craft activities to feature on their website. I can kind of get obsessed trying out new sensory experiences with my 5-year-old, so I'm happy that so many seemed to like this idea. Hands On is an amazing blog - I have been inspired countless times by all the fun ideas for crafting and lesson planning. Check them out! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rockin’ the Yoga Pants: In Support of Frumps like Me

            The other night, I stumbled upon an episode of “What Not to Wear” where former child actor turned stay-at-home mom Tina Yothers was being made over by the hosts. They chastised her for her black yoga pants, hoodies, and sandals, and instead presented her with frilly blouses, chunky colorful jewelry, and wrap skirts. She stared with confusion at the ensembles and asked how she was supposed to assist with painting and crafts while volunteering at her daughter’s school in these expensive, fancy get-ups. The hosts, I’m assuming both non-parents, laughed off her serious question and told her that the first step of change is acknowledging discomfort.    

            I don’t normally watch this show, but I was myself in my at-home “modified” yoga pants nearing midnight on the couch, procrastinating cleaning up downstairs to join my husband, who was already fast asleep. I could sympathize with Tina’s serious look of confusion at these fancy clothes, and felt obligated to sit there and watch on, a silent alley for her under my fuzzy blanket. For, I too, was wondering the same – “what’s so wrong with yoga pants?” 

I used to have “nice” clothes when I was working – lots of pantyhose, lots of opaque tights under my black boots and short skirts, clean man-tailored shirts atop perfectly-fitting slacks. But when my maternity leave started, I literally couldn’t fit into anything other than the last two of my surviving maternity tank tops and my husband’s navy blue pajama pants with images of Homer Simpson splattered all over. I wore them every day while my legs swelled and while I waited for my son to be born. And when he was, I’m surprised my “wardrobe” consisted of anything more than shreds of tattered cloth, because that’s all that seemed reasonable during those crazed apocalyptic first weeks. After the shock of initial parenthood wore off and morphed  into a subtle acceptance of the fact that my life was never to be my own again, my wardrobe, sadly, consisted of sweatpants. Not “acceptable to the public” yoga pants, but plain old sweatpants, people. I threw my un-straightened “natural cavewoman look” hair into a low ponytail every day, and I never put on make-up or painted my nails, something that I have always loved to do. Around the time my son was 8 months old and turning into a walking toddler, I slapped myself into gear and started making it a priority to put on make-up every day. Straighten my hair. Paint my nails again. Baby steps. Then - a pair of jeans! Occasionally, a clickity-clackety heel. And eventually, I found my way into some sort of at-home casual, semi I-can-pull-off-looking-like-a-regular-person style. Yoga pants, sandals, plain tanks and cropped yoga pants in the summer – all the things What Not to Wear’s hosts were condemning Tina for, pretty much sum up my wardrobe. This stay-at-home look might be an easy target for this TV show and others to say that we are letting ourselves go, but my guess is that no one is taking time and money into consideration. Maybe I can shed some light.
just another pair of yoga pants....

Reason #1 why moms wear yoga pants: we don’t have time for anything else. It’s 30 minutes and counting until we have to leave for school on a typical morning, and my son and I head upstairs to get dressed. The idea of leaving Aidan alone to get dressed on his own while I pull together my look is a reasonable thought, but as I stand in my bedroom with my pajamas halfway off, I have to keep walking back into his room to assist. Things start off simple enough. “Mommy, can you button my pants?” “Mommy, it’s your turn to brush my teeth.” I perform the needed duties, underwear on, to-be-determined shirt still not-on, and head back into my room. Oh, I forget to brush my own teeth. “Mommy, my socks are in a ball and I can’t fix then.” Fixed. I make the beds. “Mommy, look at me!” my son smiles as he comes into my room with one sock on yet completely naked elsewhere, pajama shirt twisted around his head. “It’s Naked Man time!” Naked Man is my son’s superhero alter ego, who comes to our house at precisely the worst times ever and proves he doesn’t really have any superhero powers whatsoever. I utter the phrase “get dressed!” more times than I think humanly possible in five minutes and head back to my closet, again, half-dressed with a toothbrush in my mouth. In the closet, there are vestiges of my former self – long black skirts, button down tops with wide collars, pretty flowered springtime skirts. “Mommy, can I line up my Star Wars Fighter Pods on your dresser after I get dressed?” 

“Yes, if we have time, but why aren’t you dressed yet?!? ” I close the closet and run back into my son’s room for his jacket and backpack. Rinse the stubble out of the sink from my husband’s morning shave. “Mommy, can I play you a Disney love song with my guitar before we leave?” “Do I have time to draw a picture?” “I can’t find my Batman underwear.” I pick up my husband’s dirty t-shirt from the floor. I run downstairs as Aidan finally pulls on his pants to put the dirty breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and head back upstairs, remembering I am still not dressed yet. I am sweating. I feel out of breath. Look at the clock. Ten minutes and counting. I am still not dressed. And I spend a good two minutes thinking about why I am sweating and out of breath just trying to get dressed. People have said that trying to get small children out of the house is like an Olympic sport. And I am finding that this doesn’t seem to change with an older, I can-pretty-much-get-dressed-on-my-own child. And I have one kid. The idea of trying to get multiple children dressed and ready and then myself is a feat so daunting I start sweating again just thinking about it. 

I open my dresser drawers. The black, worn, thinned out yoga pants are calling my name. I have them all in the bottom drawer, as if I am rationalizing to myself that they are infrequent items, deemed for the bottom, “lowest priority” corner of my stuff. But let’s face it. I frequent that drawer more often than any other. I find my most “acceptable out of the house” pair and put on my make-up. I chuckle a little at the dichotomy of my existence – how the thought of putting on a pair of jeans can be “dressing up” these days, but how I still like “putting my face on.” I think of my grandmother, who, to my knowledge, never wore a pair of pants in her entire life of 93 years. She would put on her heavy polyester skirts, pantyhose, fancy blouses, pearls, and heels just when she was sitting around the house or making scrambled eggs. My mother, an early Baby Boomer, used to spend three hours up-doing her hair in elaborate curls, a landscaper in her own right. I carry on as a homemaker myself, but the yoga pants are fancy enough for me. Luckily, times have changed. After a full day of chauffeuring Aidan, errands, vacuuming, cleaning the house, playing at the park, bike rides, wiping poop, shampooing hair, doing arts and crafts, reading, wiping more poop, cooking, and doing dishes, quite frankly, I don’t think anything other than the mighty yoga pants would survive.

Reason #2 why moms wear yoga pants: no one else really cares, especially the important people. “Throw your husband a bone!” the “What Not to Wear” hosts tease Tina. After our husbands spend their days in a starchy dress shirt and tie or a crisp uniform, shouldn’t we put a little more effort into how we look for them? Maybe that’s just a little bit of an outdated myth. My own husband, who is colorblind (really), cannot tell when I’ve had my hair cut several inches, when I have make-up on or not, or when I have dyed my graying brown hair a drastic bright shiny red. Sometimes I wonder if he would be able to tell if I got a new tattoo, magically grew three inches taller, or accidentally lost a finger. And I think most dudes are like that. I think they are just grateful for someone who can take care of their kids every day, feed them, and flop onto the couch at night to be their comrade after a long and stressful day of work. Sometimes I will apologize to my husband for the ridiculously fluffy set of jammies I sometimes wear to bed night after night in winter. He just stares at me. Guys don’t even listen to what their wives are chattering on about, so why would they pay attention to what kind of pants they are wearing?
Things haven't changed much. Rocking some cropped yoga pants. At least I'm comfortable.

Reason # 3 why moms wear yoga pants: We can’t afford the fancy stuff. There’s a reason I run into every other mom I know at Target – it fits our budget. I stand in the aisles of Kohl’s in my yoga pants holding my 30% coupon trying to figure out what the final price will be on the new pair of discounted yoga pants, and I’m OK with that. “What Not to Wear” gave Tina Yothers $5,000 for a shopping spree to de-frump herself as a mom. In the real world, that doesn’t happen. I wear underwear until the elastic is shot and socks until there are holes at the toes. My husband will ask if the five-year old sweater I’m wearing is new (again, he’s not good with the details) and my response is “yes.” And I honestly believe that that’s new. I still have items in my wardrobe that I wore on my first few dates with my husband over a decade ago. A lot of us moms wear our ratty black yoga pants because we can’t afford to replace them with expensive, nicer things. If we are the soldiers of scarcity, sacrifice, and thrift, then the yoga pant is our uniform. Instead of joking that we’ve become too complacent or lazy, or let ourselves go, maybe we can see ourselves in a new light – honoring the sacrifices we undergo, the great job we do with such a small budget, and the struggles we try to manage with how tight money can be on one income. But, I don't mean to be too martyrish though. After all, today I actually DID make it to yoga. In my new yoga pants ;)