*Last month I had the epic realization that I need to take
a few most of the things off my to-do list, and one of the ways I’m saving time and sanity is by re-sharing some of my favorite older posts. So today I’m reposting something I wrote at the beginning of the school year- BUT WAIT! There’s a special “Poodle Skirt Update” at the end of the post, so even if you read this one nine months ago, you totally want to read it again to see how it ends.
When I originally wrote this, I was reflecting on how awkward I feel as the mother of a second grader- I just don’t feel like I “fit in” with the other school moms. Nothing brought out my feelings of ineptitude quite like last year’s sock hop-the epitome of Mom-Fails. I am chagrined to say that although we sort of learned from our last-minute mistake after the 1st grade sock hop, we still had an 11th hour Wardrobe 911- literally the night before the big event on Tuesday. As a teaser, let me just say, The best decision I ever made was to marry a man who possesses the exact opposite skills that I possess. Wait until you see how he came through for me this week:
My Awkward Return to School
OK, fine, so I’m not actually the one returning to school in my family. My daughter, who turns seven in two weeks, is starting second grade on Monday. Like many other parents, I feel that strange mix of bewilderment that summer is nearly over, a twinge of sadness, and more than a tiny wave of euphoria. I am beyond ready for my daughter to be back in school.
But this means that I need to be prepared to morph back into School-Mom-Me. I’ll be honest- I haven’t exactly found my footing as the mother of an elementary school student. We are very happy with our daughter’s school; they have an excellent academic reputation and a highly involved group of parents. Which is where my extreme awkwardness comes into play- I sort of feel like I am in seventh grade whenever I set foot on the property.
I attended my first ever PTA meeting last year, and the experience unleashed a flood of of discomfort and insecurity within me. I am not a Room Mother, nor will I ever be. I do not prepare homemade snacks for school parties in the shape of caterpillars and ladybugs. I do not volunteer in the classroom, and I have never been on a field trip. I also don’t have long, flowing hair and designer clothes, like many of the hip mamas who arrive early for school pick-up. Much of this has to do with my status as a part-time working mom. (Except the hair and fashion part- I have no excuse for that.) I teach music classes every morning of the week, which is precisely the time of day when volunteers are needed, class parties happen, and field trips occur.
When the PTA volunteer signup was sent home the first week of the school year, I made sure to sign up for a few tasks that I thought would work well with my particular skill set. Also, I didn’t want to be known as a complete slacker. I signed up to do the yearbook page for my daughter’s classroom, due to my enjoyment of photography and love affair with my fancy camera. While it was much harder than it looked, I learned a lot about digital design and was pleased with my work.
I signed up to help with the talent show, because of my musical background. I figured maybe I could help with auditions or rehearsals, but instead they had me scheduled on show night to sign people in and hand out programs. As it turns out, you only volunteer for the talent show if your kid is going to be in it. Duh. The other parents kept politely asking, “Which one is your kid?” “Oh, none,” I replied lamely. “I just signed up to help.” Another volunteer fail. I also signed up for PTA Reflections, a contest that includes writing and music- perfect, right? (Oh, and ahem, I totally won that contest with a short story when I was in high school. Just sayin’.) They never even contacted me.
I feel like a bit of an imposter whenever I cross over into the parking lot, to be quite frank. Maybe this has less to do with the school, and more to do with the fact that I just feel like I am faking my way through motherhood, not to mention adulthood. I still eagerly await the day when I will feel like a Real Grown-Up. But I do have a hard time interpreting the secret code of elementary school. It has always been hard for me to tell what is a big deal and what isn’t. For example- is it important that my daughter wear red on School Spirit day, or is that sooo kindergarten-ish? Will she be the only one not wearing a Broncos jersey on game day? Does she care? Do all parents take off work to come to the class parties and performances?
The one event that completely blindsided me last year was the sock hop. Parents received a handout informing us of the big event, and letting us know that the kids may choose to wear poodle skirts or T-shirts and rolled up jeans, and parents were welcome to attend. Poodle skirts, I scoffed. Who the hell has a poodle skirt? As it turns out, every single girl in the first grade, minus three kids, had a poodle skirt. Izzy was the only one in her class wearing rolled up jeans at the sock hop. I was able to witness this, as this beloved school event was one of the few activities that occurred in the afternoon, when I wasn’t teaching.
But let me back up a bit. Prior to our discovery that Izzy was one of three non-poodle-skirt-wearing first graders, we’d had a discussion about the sock hop attire. Izzy didn’t seem concerned about her lack of poodle skirt. Until two days before the event. At which point she went completely ballistic. My hapless husband spent several hours the evening before the dance driving around to local stores and making phone calls. Meanwhile, I paced the kitchen, wrung my hands, and snapped, “We should have taken care of this weeks ago! What’s wrong with us?” When I finally told Izzy it was a no-go, shit hit the fan.
I am grateful to admit that I no longer recall the exact words that were exchanged in that moment, but I do remember this: it was ugly. It ended with each of us crying in our bedrooms after a vicious shouting match, likely consisting of me throwing out my standard, “Mommy is doing the best she can!” and “There’s nothing we can do about it now- move on!” and “For crying out loud, you have got to stop freaking out and calm down?!?!” (shouted at an ironic decibel and pitch)
I felt like the worst mother ever: I had let my daughter down, and I had failed to infer the importance of wearing a poodle skirt to the sock hop. Once again, I didn’t speak the right language. I had allowed my child, my child, to be subjected to ridicule and identified as an outsider. I was devastated. In fact, I was so humiliated by my failure that I called my husband in tears the morning of the dance, and begged him to come to the sock hop with me so I wouldn’t have to stand alone when pointing out my jeans-clad daughter to the inquiring mom next to me. To his eternal credit, he came along and stood by my side.
And you know what? Izzy didn’t care one bit that everybody else had a poodle skirt. She danced her heart out, completely oblivious to her nonconformist party attire. I was the only one who cared. I was the only one who felt uncomfortable.
As a sidenote, my mother, from whom I have inherited my tendency to overreact and worry about things (bless her) immediately called her seamstress sister after the sock hop debacle, who had a custom-made poodle skirt ready for the second grade sock-hop within weeks. Thanks to the expandable waistline, we should be all set for poodle skirts for the rest of Izzy’s elementary school sock-hop career. At least I can cross that potential failure off my list of worries.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to savor the remaining days of summer, and remember how much we all enjoyed our respite from the school bus, homework, spelling tests, and stressing out over the school wardrobe. I’ve got to get my act together in preparation for the upcoming school year. Who knows what programs, parties, field trips, and secret handshakes will be part of the second grade culture? Here is my vow: I will try to keep things in perspective, get involved when it is appropriate, and forgive myself for not being able to be the perfect Room Mother. I will try to be more comfortable in my own skin- after all, isn’t that what I’m trying to teach my second grader?
Second Grade Sock Hop Update
So. As mentioned, my uber-talented Aunt Jane came through for us last year, providing the poodle skirt that would serve for the upcoming 5 sock hops mere weeks after last year’s debacle. We hung it in the laundry room to prevent it from being tampered with, and in the weeks leading up to the sock hop, repeatedly commented that we’d need to have Izzy try it on so we could adjust the waistband. (Aunt Jane made it large enough to last through 6th grade, and the elastic waistband enabled us to cinch it to accommodate her teeny seven-year-old waist.)
When do you think we decided to do this fitting? That’s right- the freaking night before the event. Have I mentioned yet that I suck at sewing, crafts, and couldn’t sew on a button if my life depended on it? I located the safety pin in the elastic, took it out, and attempted to cinch the elastic band tighter and repin it. Instead, I somehow managed to pull the entire goddamn elastic out of the waist.
Clumsily I tried to stuff it back in, but it was clear I was getting nowhere. Feeling my temperature rise and my heart begin to pound, I shooed my children out of my way and raced downstairs. My husband was on the phone with this dad, so instead I panicked and texted/called my two seamstress-y friends. One of them assured me that she could help fix it when she returned home in an hour. I calmed down, but felt irritated with myself that instead of lounging on the couch I’d have to get dressed again to go fix the stupid skirt. “Maybe the husband can help me when he gets off the phone, but pfft, like he can do anything about it!” I scoffed to my girlfriend.
I think you can see where I’m headed with this. Not only did my husband’s blood pressure remain stable, (unlike mine) he headed out to the garage and returned with a wire cutter, a coat hanger, some other unidentifiable (by me) tool, and some tape. That’s right- he MacGyver’d the damn elastic waistband back in and saved the day.
Needless to say, I felt a bit sheepish at having dismissed his elastic-repair prowess as being even lower than mine. Clearly, I’d underestimated him. So, hubby, this is for you: Thank you for being calm in a crisis, being level-headed enough to problem solve, and being handier, craftier, and more reliable than anyone I’ve ever met. You were a great choice.
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