This is what my daughter wore to her first day of 1st grade. Three pairs of different colored socks, all inside-out, stuffed into her “fancy” shoes, with black leggings, a headband for a belt, and a striped dress on top. And oh, let’s not forget the bright pink BATHING SUIT she is wearing under all that jazz.
Why would I let my child dress like that on the first day of school, you ask? Because this ain’t my first rodeo. She is my third and youngest child, arriving nine years after my first, when I was close to 40. And I’ve found that one of the benefits of being an “older” mom is that you learn to pick your battles.
Because as anyone with a daughter knows, there are SO many battles.
She is my free spirit kid, a leader who marches to her own beat. Unlike me, she loves fashion and has been assembling her own outfits since she was two. Much of the time she resembles a mini version of Lady Gaga. And always, always, she wears three pairs of socks.
With my older kids, I would have cared what people thought. Did they think I was a bad mom for letting my child walk around like that? That I was lazy or over-indulgent? Perhaps. But with parenting experience comes confidence. I know I’m a good mom, my kids know I’m a good mom, and that’s all that matters. How I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that.
Who knows, this kid could grow up to be a famous designer, or come in, like, 11th place on Project Runway, all because I gave her the freedom to parade around town like a modern day Punky Brewster.
But the battles that I do pick? Those times, I make sure I stand my ground.
Other times, you do what you have to do to get your kid and her overstuffed fancy shoes out the door.
I’m telling you, it’s not what you think. Let me explain. My youngest daughter recently went on an “outdoor education” field trip with her class. Upon her return, I found these drawings in her backpack.
ME: “So…umm…you made these on your field trip?”
HER: “Yeah, we had to draw what we saw in nature.”
ME: “Oh. Huh. Soooo you saw….”
HER: “A crane fly! The first one I drew didn’t look that much like a crane fly but the second one really does, don’t you think?”
ME: “Yes! YES, it DOES! That’s EXACTLY what it looks like!”
Parenting. One small heart attack at at time.
Now picture one pale Pacific Northwest family barging onto the scene with their hats, umbrellas, swim shirts, nine types of sunscreen, and full coverage bathing suits. And, oh yeah, did I mention the GIANT PINK FLAMINGO?
A little background: My big, loud, Italian-American family is in Sicily this week to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. We are here to watch them renew their vows in the little town my great-grandparents emigrated to America from in the early 1900’s.
There are no other Americans in this town. There are no other Americans on this beach. There are certainly no other people running into the Mediterranean Sea carrying eggplant parmesan and focaccia bread high above their heads yelling to their siblings, “C’MERE YOU GOTTA TASTE THIS!”
And there is definitely no other mother/grandmother riding on a giant pink flamingo and striking up a conversation with literally every single person she floats by. Honestly, I think my mom talked to more people on that beach in 3 hours than I talk to in six months.
Never mind that she doesn’t speak any Italian and they don’t speak any English. She gestures wildly, they gesture wildly, everybody laughs, and long story short, I’m pretty sure a guy named Luigi and his family are coming to our rental house for dinner.
“Laughter is the same in any language”. – My mom
See this little boy? He drove me to the store today. No, we didn’t take the Wiggles car. We took a real car, because this boy is not so little anymore.
I kept glancing over at his lanky 15-year-old frame sitting behind the wheel, and wondering how we got here, he and I, to this stage of life, so quickly.
And as we drove I realized that as much as I complain about shuttling my kids all over the place, I will miss this time together, in the car.
The car where my son drove me crazy when he was 3 and obsessed with the Aladdin soundtrack, incessantly singing “One Jump Ahead” over and over until he got it right.
Where, as a grade-schooler, he would pepper me with questions about anything and everything as we drove to and from school.
Where, as a tween, he would introduce me to new music he had found, and complain about the injustices of middle school.
And though I listened, I secretly wished for peace and quiet on my drive. Where I didn’t have to answer a million questions. Where kids weren’t fighting in the backseat, or complaining when, God forbid, I put on an 80’s song.
But suddenly, with my second child now on the brink of independence, the days of peace and quiet in the car are rapidly approaching.
And so now I find my wish has changed. I wish that I could have just a little more time. Time with those little voices singing Disney music, time with knowing exactly where they are at every moment, because they needed me to get them there and to pick them up.
Time with the boy in the Wiggles car.
But, as we all know, there is no turning back time. And so I’ll try my best to be grateful for the present, rather than longing for the past or wishing for the future.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years of parenting, it’s that the present is actually the very best place to be.
“Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had.” – Unknown
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to follow me on Facebook at I Might Be Funny.