The right thing

Dear (Drama Teacher),

I am writing to you with some confusion and chagrin and guilt.

So, for me, just a regular day as a mom.

A month or so ago, I vaguely remember seeing a notice come home about the third grade play and costumes and volunteers but then I needed a snack or I recycled the paper accidentally or it's still in a pile somewhere but the point is I didn't volunteer. I can sew, but not very well, not with confidence.

I'll be frank: I didn't volunteer to help sew the costumes due to equal parts laziness, embarrassment about my skill level and inertia.

Then, last Wednesday night, Z was up late, unable to sleep. She found out that morning that she would need to wear a Chinese silk dress for her school play, and that the options were various shades of pink and one blue one. This was causing her great anxiety because she was told the blue one was spoken for already and she hates pink. This thing about hating pink has been an ongoing identity issue for her, after deciding about a year ago that anything remotely girly is NOT for her, so this did not surprise me. We've been buying clothes in the "boy" department in our quest for things that don't have pink or glitter. Why does everything for girls have to be pink? she laments frequently.

I will wear a dress, but I can't feel okay, can't feel like myself, in pink, Mom, she plaintively explained that night, tears streaming down her face.

We talked through her options and settled on having her write you an email explaining her predicament. She's been learning to type at school and so spent a half an hour typing out a four sentence email, her hands always returning to home position with earnest precision.

You responded nicely, understanding her position, but explained that the available costumes were what the volunteers were able to find and/or make. The blue one was in fact spoken for by the girl whose mom who had volunteered to help with costumes (GUILT GUILT) so Z would have to either find her own costume or use one of the available pink ones.

And she had to have a suitable costume by Monday.

So Z and I talked about our options. We were sure we could find a simple Chinese style dress locally. Surely someone we knew had a suitable dress?! I went on Facebook and asked my local mom's group if anyone had one they could lend us. No one did but several people suggested that we try a shop that carries dresses from China in the local mall. I assiduously avoid malls, despite my New Jersey heritage, but when the next day turned out to be a travel-able snow day, I agreed to take the girls to the mall to look for one.

(This is where the snowball gathers speed. And size.)

The mall store didn't have the kind of dress she needed and we drowned our sorrows in Ben and Jerry's and Cinnabon. (I remember now what I like about the mall!) By now I felt invested in making a non-pink dress happen for Z. Why? Maybe I felt guilty for leading her on with these possible solutions, getting her hopes up only to dash them repeatedly. Maybe it's because I too detest the tyranny of pink. Maybe it's because she was handling the continued disappointment so well, sweetly appreciating my every attempt to help her. Or maybe I was feeling like what I was about to offer is the kind of thing I'm supposed to do as a stay-at-home mom.

Whatever the reason, I offered to make her a dress.

We stopped at the fabric store, bought some fabric and came home to research Chinese dress tutorials.

Sitting here today, I don't think this was the right thing to do. The first right thing would have been to volunteer to help out with everyone's costumes in the beginning, when I could have advocated subtly for plenty of dresses in a variety of colors which would have avoided this conflict all together. The second right thing would have been to gently guide Z to acceptance of a less than perfect situation. After all, this could have been a valuable life lesson: some times you suck it up and do things you don't like.

The less than right thing, the thing that I did, was to make her a blue Chinese dress. I'm bailing her out, I realize. I'm possibly creating expectations that I can't or won't want to meet in the future.

But it's done. She's bringing her dress in to school. I hope you understand.

(I hope this less than right thing will not be a big mistake.)


this Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Sarah Anne said...

I so absolutely think you did the right thing. Goodness. If it was, "Oh pink is stupid I hate pink blah blah" that's different than, "I really can't be myself in pink."

I want to hug you and I love you for how much you love her and are supportive of her being whoever she is.

Also? GOOD JOB! It looks wonderful!

Ann Wyse said...

It looks awesome. I, too, would REALLY dislike being forced to wear pink.

And you know, I think she will always remember and appreciate that you did this for her. I wouldn't be surprised if someday she nostalgically wishes/is glad that she has it for own own daughter. I think what you did was more lasting - and more important - than a lesson in sucking it up.

grammalouie said...

This is my third try to get this posted!
You are the most awesome mother who is giving Z exactly what she needs - compassion, love, and support. Please be gentle with yourself!
I love you both fiercely and completely.

Elaine Connolly said...

Beautiful work! I hope E will wear it one day and increase your return on investment. I know Z will always remember how you came through for her and will find ways to do so for her own children -- when the time comes.

k said...

I feel like parenting is a fraught Choose Your Own Adventure with each choice of ours, as parents, feeling loaded with...stuff. Future consequences? Maybe? WHO KNOWS.

What I do know is that you are a wonderfully caring and, more importantly, conscientious and intentional parent. You got this, Jenna.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry, because you are a good mom and you care so much, not because you sewed the dress. So you did the right thing.

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