One morning last week I got out of bed. This isn’t any different from what I do every morning. I got out of bed, made my way into the kitchen, fixed Caroline a healthy breakfast of Lucky Charms served dry in a bowl, and packed her lunch. Then I walked to her closet and picked out three different outfits for her to choose what she’d like to wear to school that day.
As I made my way back to the living room, holding three different outfits on hangers, the absurdity of the situation dawned on me. And it only took three years.
Maybe it’s because I’d just finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl, but suddenly I felt very much like Mary Boleyn. Except without an affair with a power hungry king and the corsets. I have become Caroline’s very own lady-in-waiting. I pick out her clothes, I fix her hair, and I make sure she has everything she needs before she walks out the door.
And I don’t mind doing any of these things. I’m a mom. It’s what I do.
But on this particular morning as I humbly offered the three outfits carefully chosen from her closet, she looked at me and said, “The problem is you and I don’t have the same taste. I don’t like any of these choices.”
And I might have become slightly unhinged. Don’t mess with a woman recovering from Christmas vacation who has just slaved over a dry bowl of Lucky Charms and cut the crusts off a ham and cheese sandwich.
“Well, if you don’t like what I’ve picked out then you can go look in your closet and choose your own outfit. It doesn’t matter to me.”
It’s true. Yes, there was a time when I desperately wanted her to wear certain outfits with matching bows in her hair and all the right accessories. But then she started first grade last year and I looked around and realized that every child at her school dresses in a style that can only be described as HOBO CHIC. And, honestly, that’s probably an insult to hobos all over the world.
So she walked into her room and I waited to see what she would choose. And I waited.
And I waited.
After ten minutes had passed I walked in her room to find her twirling around in front of her mirror. Still wearing her pajamas.
I WAS A DONKEY ON THE EDGE.
“WHY AREN’T YOU DRESSED? WE HAVE TO LEAVE IN TWO MINUTES!”
“I don’t know what I want to wear.”
So I made a few more suggestions that she greeted with, “Or what else?” And I wished that I could do something simpler, like broker a deal for peace in the Middle East.
Finally P came in the room to intervene and told her to put on a shirt with a pair of jeans. He might have also told me I needed to settle down. I can’t remember because I had to put my head between my knees to keep from blacking out.
After the madness of the morning, I decided that Mary Boleyn needed to come up with a better solution. Our mornings have become increasingly filled with wardrobe drama after about a year of respite and I’ve been tempted to homeschool just so we can stay in our pajamas all day.
When she got home from school that day I announced she was now responsible for picking out her own clothes the night before school. If she forgets to do it, then she has to wear whatever I pick out with no argument or debate about the unfairness of life and how it relates to your mom making you wear leggings.
Leggings that you begged for only two months earlier.
As it turns out, our new system isn’t that much less painful than the old system. It just takes place at 6:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. and I have the comfort of knowing I can send her to bed shortly after we debate the merits of a plaid skirt versus a tie-dyed dress.
Which brings us to last night. The weather forecast indicated it was going to be the coldest day of the year so far. I reminded Caroline to go pick out what she wanted to wear the next day. She asked me to help her so I obliged. I’m not a heartless tyrant in spite of my penchant for leggings.
As we stood in her closet she asked, “What would you wear if the weather was going to be cold and you wanted to be toasty warm?”
I pointed out a few sweater dresses and some fleece-lined tops with leggings or jeans.
And she asked, “What else besides any of those things?”
Seriously. Netanyahu needs to call me. We can figure this Middle East thing out.
I said, “You find something. I need to go finish cooking dinner.”
About three minutes later I heard her sneak into the kitchen. She threw a folded up piece of paper at me and loudly whispered, “Open it”.
I opened it.
It read, “I NEED HELP”.
Don’t we all, sister. Don’t we all.
So, because I am a glutton for punishment, I walked back in her room to give it another try. I showed her a few more outfits that she found unacceptable until I finally channeled my inner fashionista and asked, “What’s your goal? What are you envisioning?”
“Well. I definitely want to wear my legwarmers. And two shirts. And a skirt. Maybe with some tights. And a hat.”
And that is how I sent Punky Brewster off to school yesterday.