Saturday Squatter Guest Post by Nell at meanwhile...
As a mother I feel like I am always comparing myself to other moms. I don't want to, it just happens. I also really like to watch people, try to figure them out, imagine what their lives are like when they're not in public. It turns out elementary school is the perfect place for these two elements to co-exist, they develop a symbiotic relationship: each one feeding off the other.
Since my daughter Matilda started kindergarten two weeks ago, I have found myself surrounded by new and interesting people and there is one mother in particular whom I find fascinating. She is like an undiscovered species. She is so strange, so completely my opposite, that I find myself compelled to speak to her every day.
In many ways, she fits the profile of a Gap mom, but not quite. It's like she's trying to be a Gap mom, like she wants everyone to think she's a Gap mom, but she's not, and she feels badly about that somehow.
Gap Mom characteristics: She arrives in her gym clothes, looking pert. She drives a red SUV. Her daughter is always immaculately dressed, including ridiculously perfect hair every day. She redid her daughter's bedroom in Princess Pink and Fairytale Pink and then told the rest of us pick-up moms about it using those exact names to describe the paints.
Non Gap Mom characteristics: She works nights in the ER and is working on finishing her nursing degree at the local community college. She is not member of the PTO. She does not directly snub me.
All of the kindergartners have gym on Tuesdays and have been asked to wear their sneakers to school. On the first gym day, she explained that her daughter's sneakers were in her backpack because "we searched through her entire wardrobe and couldn't find a single thing that went with sneakers!" Huh? Matilda's outfits often consist of mismatched stripes and unruly patterns. These perfectly matching people were intriguing: I wanted to know more.
Last week I asked if she would be attending an event at the school on Saturday. She sighed and raised her eyebrows. "Well," she said, "Taylor* has ballet, tap, jazz and cheer-leading on Saturdays, but maybe we can come after."
Ballet. Jazz. Tap. and CHEER-LEADING? For a five year old? WHAT?!
Without warning I found myself wondering if maybe Matilda would like to take a dance class. She took ballet for a while when she was three, but she lost interest, and I didn't push her. Maybe I should have. Should I be doing more? Should my life be more kid-centric?
This lasted all of about thirty seconds and I remembered who I am as a parent. I love my children, but I don't smother them and I sure as hell don't push them. It's just not my way, and besides, they wouldn't let me. Willful little things.
Yesterday she asked me where I bought Matilda's skirt. I was unprepared. It's made by the Children's Place, but I bought it last fall at the Goodwill. I am a total Goodwill addict. I love the Goodwill - I can go shopping as often as I want without the guilt of overspending, plus I always find something great. But admitting it somehow made me feel bad, in the way that we have been told to feel bad if we don't have all of the same shiny new stuff as everyone else.
I told her where I bought it and there was a brief moment of silence before she and the others launched into a conversation, not about where they shop, but about where they donate.
As I hung back and listened to them I realized that I don't want to play her game. I don't want Matilda to be the cheerleader in high school whose bra and panties match her socks. That's not her, and it's not me either. I do things my way, and I want Matilda to do thing her own way too.
Matilda and Taylor have become friends. I like to imagine them hanging out when they're older, like when they're fifteen. I imagine Matilda being jealous of how perfect Taylor's family seems, like a TV family. And I imagine Taylor being jealous of Matilda, of how wild and crazy her family is, of how she can make her own choices and be whoever she wants to be. And I know Matilda is getting the better end of that deal.
I'd like to thank Megan for letting me hang at her place today, and invite you all to come over to my house at meanwhile... where there is all manner of crazy fun to be had. It's like a party every day, I swear.
*Taylor's not her real name, I might exploit my own children in the name of blogertainment, but the children of others remain, regrettably, off-limits.