It’s that time of year again: The Crappiest Time of the Year, followed shortly thereafter by The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Also known as The Last Two Weeks of Summer Vacation, followed by The First Day of School.
Y’all already know how I feel.
But TCTY involves one thing that sort of makes me a little bit happy: Shopping.
And normally I don’t buy a lot of new clothes for my kids before school starts because, for crying out loud, it’s 100 degrees and will stay 100 degrees til Halloween. They can wear their clothes from last spring. We’ll buy new clothes when it gets cold. Say, 75 degrees.
But two of the three little monsters have hit growth spurts, so off we went.
First, we hit the dancewear store. All of us. Meghan, Griffin, Nathan and me. The boys were under strict orders to sit quietly on the couch and read their books because “this won’t take long.”
That turned out to be a big, fat lie, and the boys were D-O-N-E after 12.2 minutes of our two hour ordeal.
Meghan tried on every black spaghetti-strapped leotard on God’s green earth. The girls’ sizes were too small, the women’s too big.
It sucks being twelve.
But after an hour of running between the dressing room and the showroom, grabbing anything that closely resembled an acceptable leotard that does not require a second mortgage, she finally settled on four.
Yes, that’s right. Four. One for each day she will be at the studio this year.
I’m going to need more chocolate.
Anyway. Leotards selected. On to pointe shoes.
And a second mortgage.
But this particular store was very good about finding a pair of pointe shoes that fit her feet perfectly. Which is a good thing since 1) she has weird feet, and 2) she’ll be wearing these shoes four times a week. The sales girl assessed her bare feet, brought out two hundred fifty-seven pairs of shoes, put each pair on her, assessed again, brought out more shoes, try on, assess, repeat…
An hour later, we owned four leotards, three pairs of tights, one pair of perfect pointe shoes (ribbons and elastic sewn for $10? YES PLEASE), toe spacers, toe cushions, two little boys on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and one exhausted mama.
The next week (it took a few days to recover from dancewear), we tackled school clothes. Did you know Old Navy doesn’t sell denim shorts in August?
Me neither. Somebody in their corporate office needs an autumn vacation to Texas.
Office Max was our next stop because my cabinet of overstock school supplies makes me happy, and 25 cent glue sticks makes it even better. So much of my life is chaos, so having an organized, labeled cabinet full of pens, pencils, markers, paper, scissors, glue – all within easy reach – gives me the illusion that I have control over SOMETHING. Also we dip into the stockpile when assembling our annual Operation Christmas Child boxes.
Then Kohl’s for more twelve year old dressing room drama because we’re out of the girl’s section but barely into the junior’s and finding clothes that fit is a huge ordeal.
Blah…blah…blah…shorts, jeans, deco towels, boys reading on the couch outside the dressing room…blah…blah…blah…
I’m getting to my point.
So that night, after Michael came home from work for some father-sons bonding, Meghan and I left again to continue our quest for Clothes That Fit. After trying on more pairs of denim shorts than any one person should, she and I headed out for a late dinner. The conversation quickly turned to middle school and all that she anticipates…and fears.
Do you remember 7th grade? Me too. And you couldn’t pay me enough to go back there.
The initiation into teenagehood requires angst and fear and worry. Lots of giggling. A handful of comparison. A dash of trying to measure up. A heaping tablespoon of loneliness.
No longer a little girl – no more princesses and Barbies and dress-up – but not yet an adult. She’s outgrown the frilly dresses and bows, the adorable leggings and sparkly tshirts. But the curvy jeans don’t yet fit. Neither do the leotards.
Sometimes she needs a trained expert to assess her feet and find the right pointe shoes. Sometimes she needs a survivor of adolescence – me – to listen to her observations and fears, to offer gentle guidance, careful advice, words of experience.
(As in, the only difference between a boyfriend and a friend-who-is-a-boy is the kissing, and having friends-who-are-boys is a great way to get to know the workings of the male mind sans drama. Please have friends-who-are-boys. Pleasepleasepleaseplease.)
Our conversation steered toward my own dating experience, and the simple act of recall made my stomach knot. Many fond memories, much heartbreak. Lots of tears. Too much please love me and please tell me I’m worth it. Too little I am valuable because I am and I don’t need your approval to know my own significance.
I hate that she’s going to try on those jeans. I wish we could stay at Gymboree. But you have to have jeans. It’s all a part of earning the right to shop in the women’s department.
I know that Ann Taylor Loft has fabulous styles. Finding a great store with clothes that fit me took a while, but when I found it, I looked good. I tried on a lot of jeans, visited a lot of stores, stood in a lot of dressing rooms. I discovered what fits me, what is comfortable, what is stylish. I learned what styles and colors complement my personality and body type…and what doesn’t. And that it doesn’t always matter what the salesgirl tries to sell me, what she says will get me noticed, what “everyone else” is wearing. I now know what I like.
Meghan is only beginning her journey through the dressing rooms. And I hate that for her.
But the perfect pair of jeans awaits…