This morning my daughter wanted to wear her trousers for school. They were not officially on the uniform list until this year and it hadn't really occurred to me to buy them until I saw a very cute slim leg pair in M&S. I thought daughter would be a bit dubious, but she was thrilled with them! We talked about how they would keep her warm in winter and be SO much easier and quicker than a skirt and tights. How I loathe tights, the time it takes to put them on, the gusset hanging down below her school skirt, how they seem to shrink and go all bobbly no matter what you do. Daughter also has swimming at school for the first time this year and I know how painfully slow she is at getting changed. I love my daughter more than I could ever put into words, but she has the concentration span of a goldfish and is pretty lazy to boot - she tries to get dressed using just one hand a lot of the time, it is beyond painful. So anyway, I think it's clear I was looking forward to the school trousers.
So, as I said, it was her idea to give them a go today. She was very pleased with them and looked so sweet and grown up. As we were running out of the door (still brushing our teeth) I pointed to her zip, as she was flying low. "I didn't know they had a zip," she said, "they're like boy's trousers..."
A few minutes later, as we are gently jogging to school (it's 8.40am now) she whispers, "I think everyone is going to laugh at me." She is pink-eyed and chewing her lip, "they will think I look like a boy with long hair."
"Does anyone else wear trousers?" I ask, slowing down my jog to a brisk walk.
"No. Well, I think one girl in another year"
Oh shit. I want to run home and get her changed. Or perhaps I could take her to school and then go back and drop a skirt off for her to change into? What should I do?
I take a deep breath. Daughter is not me. I spent all of school trying desperately to fit in, to say the right things, watch the right TV shows so I could join in the conversations, wear the same sort of thing as everyone else. But I always got it a bit wrong, I always felt on the back foot and left out, I was always a bit too much of a nerd. But daughter likes to be different. I ❤️ that about her. For Roald Dahl day recently, she wanted to dress as Matilda, until she found out lots of other girls were too. Then she decided (the night before - helpful!!!!) to be Miss Honey. She was so proud of herself, and I was too.
I sometimes used to find myself cajoling her to do - or not do - things by saying, "Well, everyone else will be going", or, "fine, but you'll be the odd one out (e.g. wearing shorts in February)" And then one day, I heard myself, and thought What Am I Doing? Why am I encouraging her to be 'like everyone else', or to feel embarrassed to be different? Since then I have been trying to encourage her to be different and to have the confidence to make whatever choices she wants to make. I may still draw the line at shorts in February, mind you. Yes, daughter, even if you wear long socks with them to keep warm. In fact, definitely if you wear long socks with them. This is not 1973.
So, with this in mind, I took a deep breath and told daughter she looked fantastic, and if anyone laughed at her they were just a very mean person. And probably jealous that she had warm toasty legs.
At the door to her class, I told her teacher she was a bit worried. Teacher was AWESOME. She was outraged at the thought that any child would be so mean and said she wouldn't just keep an ear out, as I'd asked, she would MAKE SURE no one said anything. I give daughter the thumbs up through her classroom window. Teacher could obviously tell I was a bit worried too and reminded me it was Harvest Festival day. The class would be walking to church at 10am if I wanted to walk with them and check daughter was ok.
So, I skipped small boy's usual music-singing group thing and raced home for half an hour to tidy up, and then raced back to school again. Little boy was compensated for time spent in pushchair with many snacks and was uncharacteristically compliant. And there she was, gorgeous daughter, with her shiny plaits and gappy smile. Her teflon trousers billowing gently in the breeze. So happy and excited. I walked to school next to my daughter and a new friend of hers, and they told me all about how they had to stand on the stage to say a prayer together. Daughter hadn't told me she was saying a line.
And I thought, this is it. This is why I didn't go back to work. To be here. So that I can listen to her momentary fears; so it's ME she tells when she is scared; so that I can walk her to school and tell the teacher; so that I can drop everything and go back to school just to walk her 5 minutes up the road. Sometimes I would give anything to have a career again, to turn back the clock and make a different choice and work part time. To put my suit and heels on and catch the 7.27 to Waterloo. To have meetings, to get pissed off with clients, to laugh with colleagues and have after work drinks. Oh, after work drinks!! And Christmas parties! And just to have something to say when you meet someone new, "What do you do?" "I'm a mum" is a total conversation killer when the other person doesn't have kids, I've found. The money would be nice, too. But then, at times like this, none of that matters, and I am SO glad I'm here. Every day.
Sometimes my world feels as though it's become very small, but today I don't feel quite so insignificant after all.
Michelle is intolerant of wheat, dairy and, mainly, her children. She blogs about parenting and gluten and dairy-free recipes at The Intolerant Mum at https://theintolerantmum.com
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