Kindergarten Karmic Payback
By Jessica Guerrieri
Becoming a parent ultimately boils down to history repeating itself—I’m talking bittersweet karmic retribution.
I grew up in the simpler yester-year, before social media, when mothers didn’t feel the need to one-up their junior high nemeses in Instagram games of Whose Family Looks the Best in Matching Holiday Flannel.
When my own mother dressed my sister and me, she did so because it brought her joy. She’d take care and pride in putting together coordinating, often hand-stitched, outfits for us.
Until I wanted a say in the matter, of course.
It was kindergarten picture day—I still remember it vividly. My mom wanted me to wear a brightly colored, classic eighties romper. I did not. It was the first, but certainly not the last, time we argued over an outfit. In the end, my mother won. Little did she know that I had thoughtfully plotted my revenge: an epic, grumpy, camera-ready pout. My photo looked like a child’s version of a mug shot. So I was first in line for retakes. And—wait for it—I got to wear an outfit of my choosing!
Now that I have three strong-willed girls of my own, I have a different perspective on that picture-day power struggle.
Since the moment they were born, my girls have regarded getting dressed as the ultimate form of torture. With every attempt to put legs in pants or arms in shirts, they contort their bodies like performers ready to audition for Cirque du Soleil. (As both of their parents stand more than six-feet tall, a future in dancing or any other dainty art is not likely.) For me, getting them dressed—contortions and all—is how I show I care about them. But for them, it’s a fight for their very souls (or so it would seem).
When it comes to picture day attire, things like coordinating colors and matching patterns are about as relevant to my girls as finishing their brussels sprouts and kale. Don’t get me wrong; with the proper amount of cajoling and bribery, e.g. cupcakes or lollipops, we can stage the ultimate family photo. However, this isn’t a war I have the stamina to endure on the regular. A fashion fight on photo day is one thing but going into combat every single school morning? I don’t think so.
I’d much prefer to save my energy for those teen battles that yield profound, soul-shaking revelations. For now, I’m content that our girls show us their passion in the form of vegetable and romper protests. It’s our job to create boundaries, and their job to push up against them.
And as for that picture-day fight so long ago? I understand that, for my mom, it had nothing to do with trying to control my choices. But, rather, the outfit was an expression of her love and respect for me—and herself. She wanted to see her kids look their best, a simple joy that she dutifully deserved after so many years of caring for and comforting us. Of course, at five, I didn’t grok the complexities and sacrifices of the maternal role. But now, at 36, I do. And I can tell you, I’m forever grateful for the gifts of a mother’s love—rompers included.
Jessica Guerrieri is a mom and a freelance writer/blogger. Find her at witandspitup.com and on Instagram @witandspitup.