Once, a long time ago, I saw a child wearing a pin that read "I Dressed Myself."
Lately I've been wishing that I had one of those buttons for each of my kids to wear.
You see, I've recently mostly given up on trying to dress my kids well. Truth be told, I've been sliding in this direction for a while now, as Matthew's piles of sweat pants have grown larger and the jean/pant pile has diminished by comparison. I used to be quite conscious about how we dressed, because we're h/schoolers and because there are often assumptions made about us as h/schoolers...but, as it turns out, those assumptions are quite possibly correct about our family. :)
This fall, perhaps unconsciously in correspondence with our venture into unschooling, I've let more things go. I do insist that for certain occasions I get to help them choose their clothing (for example, I did not let Matthew wear his hole-in-the-knee sweats and baggy shirt for a concert he and I attended last week), but for the most part I'm leaving them to their own devices when it comes to their clothing and adornment choices.
I wish I had pictures to show you some of the ensembles they've walked out of the house in. I feel the need to apologize to you in advance, should you meet me with my children.
It's been pretty brutal at times.
Is it wrong of me to hope that people who see my kids understand without an exchange of words that it's not their mother dressing them like that? It is horrid to want to explain to people, strangers and friends alike, that we're allowing for their freedom of expression in this way and choosing not to make an issue of it?? Why do I feel so unnecessarily self conscious about this?
Matthew has worn dismal combinations of plaids and stripes out of the house, along with his ever-lengthening hair. It's been hurtful to the eyes at times, and I'm sure my mother must want to roll her eyes when she sees his hair hanging down his face. The thing is, I refuse to make an issue out of hair (because why?) and so after I last forced a haircut on him in July, when my brother got married, I told Matthew that he could grow it any which way he wanted...and he has taken me at face value on this point. Although he does (usually) brush his hair before he leaves the house (or let Lizzie brush it for him, which is what actually usually happens), he then deliberately and joyfully runs his hands through it a few times to feel more "comfortable" - and he has hair that, when you run your hands through it, generally stays the way your hands have left it. In other words, it's a shaggy mess of cow licks and wavy bits, and it hangs in his eyes and over his ears. Today he told me that he could lick it. Great.
Seth has fared the best, actually. With his recently shorn head (he refused to let me touch his hair for about eight weeks and it was getting dry and matted, so I told him he had a choice between letting me at it, or cutting it short) his hair maintenance is nil and it looks good; the biggest challenge I have with him now is lotioning him up so that his skin doesn't look gray. But clothing-wise, he's always been most comfortable wearing nice-looking clothes. His favourite selections are jeans and a t-shirt (he hates wearing even the coziest of sweats and will cry if I ask him to wear them!), and he has a definite preference for straight-leg jeans that have no holes and no stains...and I do mean no stains - that kid kneels on the floor over a pair of jeans with x-ray vision that misses nothing and I'm sure he'd find a microscope handy in his quest for anything that has marred the surface of the fabric. For church on Sundays, he insists on a button-down shirt (and he has since the second Sunday he ever attended church in Canada - I think it has to do with his upbringing in Ethiopia...and he used to insist on dress shoes as well). So actually, now that his hair has been dealt with, he's generally pretty presentable. The only exceptions are when he mixes up patterns on things, but he's getting a bit more savvy about that, too.
Then there's Lizzie. Oh Lizzie. This is the girl who, until a few months ago, was an all-jeans girl. Everything had to be jeans. And only jeans. The only way I could move her into a pant manufactured out of a different fabric was to tell her that "oh, these are just like jeans but people usually call them cords/tights/etc" and even that was wearing a little thin when she realized that she was wearing pretty much anything by the end.
These days, although she will readily don clothing other than denim now, my little darling has declared herself both "fashionable" and "into women's fashion" and she is, shall we say, sowing her oats in this arena. She thinks nothing of matching (and I do use that term loosely) clothes in a rainbow of colours and patterns. For example, she is really into wearing two different socks chosen to highlight various features of the clothing she is wearing; so a single zebra-striped sock is intended to match the black spot on her shirt and highlight the white of her teeth; and the purple ziz-zag flowered sock on her other foot is meant to highlight one of the dark purple stripes on her pant leg.
And her hair. Her hair. Lately she has taken to wanting to be in charge of her own hair and, partly out of relief and partly out of wanting to encourage her initiatives, I have let her. She's playing with it constantly and last week, for the first time, she ordered her brothers to let her get ready in the bathroom "in peace" because she was "doing" her hair! Ten minutes later the boys were still waiting...not patiently.
She'll still let me put conditioner in her hair, and I do insist on detangling it from time to time, but she likes to wear it free (can we say t-a-n-g-l-e?) and then decorate it with a mishmash of colourful elastics twisted around clumps of hair. Before church last Sunday, I'd managed to tame it into a rather lovely looking 'fro, and then went to get ready myself. Twenty minutes later, when I was calling the kids to the door, she came down, proud as a little peacock, with her hair a riot of colourfully-adorned ponytails...well, part of her hair was bound up and the other part stuck out wildly in all directions. One ponytail on her right stuck straight out, Pippi fashion, and others had up to four elastics in them. She looked dreadful but she'd done it herself. Oh, and her shirt was soaking wet from neck to chest because she'd wet her hair using a spray bottle (to stretch it out a little and make it easier to style) and had missed her actual hair by quite a large margin.
So what does a mother do in such a scenario? Well, there's not much choice, really, but to tell that daughter how proud she is that she is taking care of her own hair because that's such a big and important job...and let her walk out the door like that. Even while cringing, just a bit, on the inside.
But perhaps the worst of it all is what I've allowed myself to become. A few days ago, for example, I opened the front door to a UPS delivery person without even a thought as to what I was wearing. I caught a strange and lingering look from the delivery person and it was not a flattering look. That made me think, as I stood there in the doorway, that something must be wrong with my appearance. I looked down at myself and realized, with horror, that I was still in my pyjamas; then I remembered that I hadn't combed my hair yet that day. I swallowed my embarrassment and chuckled self consciously, commenting that I guessed it was a little unusual to be greeted by a home owner in their PJs. The delivery person was gracious enough to say that she had seen it increasingly as we get closer to Christmas; but I really think that she was just being kind - because most other people have kids in school and so probably aren't even home during the day, much less in PJs, whereas in our case she got me and all three of my kids in PJs and my kids were crowded around me saying hi and asking what her job was like and would she like to come in for a cup of coffee! Yeah, that would have been a good plan given the state of us.
The worst moment, though, was after I closed the door and, minutes later, had to use the bathroom. I happened to glance into the mirror and gasped audibly. Not only had I not combed my hair yet that day, but I'd scraped it into a pony tail at some point and there were three sections of my hair that hadn't fully made it into the elastic!
It was horrible! You know those selfie pictures I posted a few days ago? Well, those made me look downright covergirlish in comparison to how I came to the door for UPS. I had answered the door to whoever might have been on the other side: Unshowered; in my PJs; still wearing my glasses (which means I hadn't washed my face either); with radically horrible and greasy and sticking-up-Lizzie-fashion hair. Without any thought whatsoever, I'd opened that door. It was 2:30pm.
Really, when it boils right down to it, the sad truth is that I guess I'm the one most at risk, these days, of embarrassing the rest of my family by my appearance.
I think it's actually me who's most in need of that pin: I Dressed Myself.