They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What do you suppose this one is all about? You would think from the gorgeous grin on A’s face that it represents nothing but sheer joy. And, let me tell ya, it certainly did for her. And yet, while it was happening, I looked happy on the outside too, but inside, things weren’t so filled with joy. In fact, most of what I felt while my daughter was getting the fancy, little feather woven into her pretty hair basically amounted to total shame. How can this be?
I keep hearing from many of you that what resonates the most when you read Poopie Mommy is how candid and honest I am in sharing all of my personal parenting stories with you. This couldn’t please me more, as the main reason I started this blog was to discuss real issues that arise as we all plow through motherhood together. And so today is a tough one to share, but one that I think is vital to the overall discourse regarding how we want our kids to be raised, and also, a topic that I believe if you dig deep down within yourself, you’ll admit you struggle often with as well.
So, how can I see my daughter so thrilled and happy and feel such shame inside? Allow me to backtrack and tell you how feather girl up there in the pic ended up with that feather in the first place. This morning when I was making breakfast in the kitchen, A came downstairs with huge tears welling up in her eyes. She seemed totally distraught over something. I ran to hug her and ask her what’s the matter. I was waiting for something serious and truly worrisome to come out of her mouth. I braced for the worst. But this, my poops, is exactly what she said: “Mommy, I’m sooo embarrassed. All the girls at school have feathers in their hair and I don’t. I don’t even want to go to school because I don’t have a feather too.” Are you freakin’ kidding me?
First and foremost, I felt a huge sense of relief wash over me that it wasn’t something serious. But then, as I stood there and watched my 5 year-old crying hysterically, I thought to myself: actually this is kind of serious. I can’t believe I’m confronted with this problem already. Holy shit, this nonsense is starting way too early! I had an instant flashback of me standing in the tween section at Famous Barr yelling and sobbing at my own mom because she refused to buy me the denim Guess overalls that all the other girls had. It was vivid picutre. I could see everything in my memory from my Outback Red button-down tee to my Sebago shoes and the Swatch watches going up half the length of my arm! Of course there was a fundamental difference between my actual experience as a young girl wanting something so badly that the other girls had and what A was doing right now. The difference? Uh, I was twelve and in the sixth grade. She is still in the pre-k!!!!
I realized at that moment this morning that we were entering an era that I was completely unprepared for and quite frankly was confounded by because of her extremely young age. Is this how it goes with girls these days? Do they really already notice what the other girls have and desire the same things? Maybe it’s because I was a tomboy or perhaps it was because I grew-up in a completely different time, but I was astonished by how upset A was over an effing feather missing from her hair! I looked at the clock and realized that we were running late. I needed the girls to eat breakfast and get their shoes on. So, I let the dumbest things ever fly out of my mouth to try to ease the situation. “A,” I said, “lots of the girls have those feathers because they got them at a birthday party over the weekend. But you know what you got that they don’t have?” She looks at me like I’m an idiot and says, “what?” I tell her, “you got to go to a different party and get a Build-A-Bear. How cool is that?” She’s so hip to what I’m trying to do before I even open my mouth. “Everyone has a Build-A-Bear, mom! I really want the feather in my hair like everyone else!” So then I try an even dumber approach. I say, “A, you know what else you have that no one else does?” She looks at me the same way, and says “what?” And I pull her closer, put my hand on her chest gently and say, “this beautiful, special, amazing heart inside that I love.” Yep, it sounded as corny and cheesy to her too because she went storming right back up the stairs.
Anyway, I somehow managed to get the girls to school on time, but only after promising A that while I was running some errands I would see if I could find a feather for her. The minute I said I regretted it, but sometimes you just make promises to diffuse a situation and worry about it later. You can tell where this is headed, right poopies? I couldn’t believe how much the clip-on feathers cost when I finally located them, so I thought perhaps I could suggest to A that she get one woven in like the other girls in a few weeks when her grandmother comes to town. I would tell her that it would be so much fun to do that together and maybe we could even get her nails painted too. I’m sure if I use enough enthusiasm in my tone and expression she’ll go for it! Wrong. So wrong.
I pick the girls up from school and before the kid even says hello to me, you know what the first thing out of her mouth is? Yep. Of course. “Mommy, did you find me a feather?” Jesus! This freaking feather is not going away! And then poops, that’s when I did it. The moment my shame and guilt began to sink in. Even as I said it aloud, I knew I was making a terrible mistake. “Would you girls like to go to the mall and get feathers in your hair right now?”And with squeals of utter delight, I got a huge, screaming “YES!!!!!”
As I drove us to the mall, I could not help but think that I was doing the wrong thing and setting a an awful precedent for the future. So, I begin to say the following to the girls “Now, A & D, please understand that today is an exception. Today is a special, one time thing. You both need to understand that just because other people have things you want it doesn’t mean you will always get them too. It’s very important to your father and I that we raise you to understand this because we want you to work hard in life and place value on things that really matter and have meaning. Am I making myself clear?” Even as I’m talking, I know I sound like a complete asshole. How in the world can I expect them to understand anything at this very moment when all they can concentrate on is which color feather they’re each going to pick out? Did I really think my little speech would have any impact on them? Nope. That little speech was all for poops here, to try to ease my guilty conscience because I know what I’m about to do is wrong, wrong, wrong.
The girls get their feathers and are so unbelievably happy after that I almost try to convince myself, briefly, that what I did couldn’t have been bad. I mean, honestly, how could anything that makes them smile like that be bad? But, deep down, I know it was the wrong message to send. My actions basically told my daughter that when she sees something that someone else has and she desires it, then she can expect to get it too. And on such a fundamental level, I disagree with this entirely. Not only do I not want my children to care what other people have, I certainly don’t want to raise them to desire more than they need or to expect that Mommy will continue to cave and buy them things just because of external influences.
I really fear the bad choice I made today will come back to haunt me. I can’t shake it. It’s been on my mind every since. Did I plant a terrible seed today? Or can I just chalk it up to one isolated incident and stop placing so much emphasis on one damn feather?