Motherhood Musings: September is the New January

Here it is, the beginning of September, and I feel like it’s the New Year.

As a mother of school-aged children (albeit one is in a preschool program), both attending full-day, full-week programs for the first time, the back to school season seems to me to mark a new beginning much more than the traditional change-up of January 1st.

DO NOT PIN september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

Adjusting to so much sudden newness — new schools, new teachers, new schedules, new bedtime and wake-up routines, managing to get them fed and one to the bus on time – creates much more upheaval than the January 1st fervor of casting off the shadows of last year’s shortfalls while scrambling to boldly proclaim new health and personal resolutions, and remembering to change your date references to the new calendar year.

Perhaps September is the new January. I can see that working in our society with its love affair with rebranding. Please, someone make a meme to that effect, which we can all post and pin endlessly.

And it doesn’t help that summer is such a tease. Bidding you to come and sit awhile and imagine what life could be like if there weren’t any real world responsibilities, as if it were possible for adulthood to be as carefree as youth.  As a parent, all summer long you know the return to reality is lurking out there, ready to stare you down come the end of August, but there are ample and tantalizing distractions to help you succumb to the siren song of summer. Beach days, hikes, picnics, family vacations, dips in a pool, spontaneous explorations, gardens, bugs, wildlife, fairs, ice cream runs, glow sticks galore, fireworks, more ice cream; not to mention the unavoidable diversions like longer days with a lingering sunlight that pushes bedtime well past the time your child’s little body actually needs sleep.

DO NOT PIN summer fun, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN summer fair, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN, Summer Swim, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN, Summer Snooze, september is the new january, www.fromwholecloth.com

DO NOT PIN Summer Fun, september is the new january www.fromwholecloth.com

And then suddenly the calendar changes to the first day of school; and the momentum shifts, you’re in overdrive.

During my years of full-time lawyering, my performance goals and the firm’s were tied to the traditional calendar year. Each month’s performance marched you closer to the final accounting in December. There was no escaping the established January to December measure of time. But with children it’s so different.

The concept of time is still so ambiguous, so un-measurable, for children. It’s that limitlessness that contributes to their sense of wonderment and curiosity. After all, what isn’t possible when time is simply a continuum, not an ordered, impending beast full of deadlines and due dates and pickup times and late fees.

Of course, that limitless mentality backfires into a hot mess when trying to convince them they need to go to sleep NOW or they’ll be inconsolably tired the next day, or that we needed to leave the playground LIKE 15 MINUTES AGO or dinner will be late and baths will be late and this ultra-sensitive pressure-cooker called our “schedule” will explode into a million pieces.

I admit I’ve never been good at take it easy, go with the flow; although I’ve certainly expended effort to make it look otherwise. Historically, my only flow has been the one I create and try to control by squeezing it around the neck into submission. In fact, when I finally made the decision to leave my job in order to stay home with my family, I had this really hard core expectation of my new role – I was going to be the CEO of the home. It was my job to be in control of all the home/family needs. Um, embarrassing.

How stupid. Ridiculous, really. And even worse, it doesn’t work! It is fairly obvious, although it took me an incredibly long time to learn, that the need to control is mostly born out of fear and anxiety. Yep, take a minute to let that sink in, and then tell me how cool you feel being a control freak.

So, I guess if September is the new January, it’s only appropriate that I make a resolution or two.

I’ll go with trite. Trite but true. Be present more, breathe more. Instead of focusing on that clock, the ever-present schedule, the self-imposed sentence of my mental to-do list, just be mommy. Because, after all, that is my job.

I don’t need to have the cleanest house, my kids don’t need to read by age whatever, I don’t need to make everything for them, we don’t have to be perfect, breakfast for dinner is a real thing. And so on. But kids do have big needs – mostly and simply to feel loved and safe and encouraged. And every time I yell or, even worse, curse, because I feel we’ve fallen short of some arbitrary standard of measurement I’ve created, I degrade that safe environment and I invite anxiety into our home. We know these things, but we ignore them. We need reminding.

A reminder to myself: My job is to support my children, not to confine them with kooky expectations, or comparisons, or to-do lists. There’s no such thing as perfect. I can’t control everything. Who would want that job anyway?

Motherhood Musings: 5th Birthday

Dear readers, I thought I’d take a break from sewing talk to share some of my recent thoughts and observations on motherhood. If you’ll be so kind as to indulge me…

Tiger Towel 1

It’s official. I am now the mother of a five-year-old.

Five seems so big. In a way that his first through fourth birthdays did not affect me, I am suddenly struck by how much older he seems to me. And despite the still thumb-sucking, and the requests to be held and hugged and to snuggle, and the way he often reverts to calling me “mama” rather than “mom, and even if we’re holding off on kindergarten for another year, it is like there is no denying that five years old is no longer a little, little boy.

Five is big. Five for him is full of ambition, even when he’s still working on all the skills necessary to achieve. Like wanting so much to ride his bike without training wheels, and tie his shoes. Five means getting dressed by himself but still struggling with socks. Five is being so proud to be a big brother.

But five has a certain fragility to it. It is a tightrope walk between toddler and big kid. More big kid than baby, yes; but the steps toward big kid are often uncertain and slippery. While we wait in line at the grocery store, he boasts to strangers, “I just turned five.” It is an announcement that belies his usual hesitancy about talking in public or drawing attention to himself. It is as if he’s trying out his five-ness on them. Looking for assurance that he’s on the right path.

Selfishly I feel a strange and unwelcome sentiment that turning five has suddenly and irreparably catapulted us down the road toward his adulthood. Like a super-sized gravitational pull toward a time when I won’t be the answer for all his questions and worries. When I check on him for the last time before bed each night, I have to fight the urge to whisper “stay little” in his ear. I am embarrassed by how unsettled I feel by this. And yet I recognize it is one of the quintessential hypocrisies of motherhood and aging in general. We want our children to grow up and figure things out on their own. Just not too soon. We want them to be independent, but to need us too. We want to matter.

I must sound ridiculously dramatic. I know. But I was blindsided by how this birthday was tinged with some bittersweet. I’m going to chalk it all up to a fleeting melancholy due to all the changes culminating at this time of year — the end of summer laziness, a new school year for my son, my youngest starting nursery school, new work obligations for me, shorter days, longer nights. Life moves on, as it always does.

And, the truth is, I still really, really matter to him. And we’re lucky enough to still be at the stage where a tiger towel and cake pops pretty much assure my “best mom” status. But more on that next time.

Thanks for listening!

 

Inappropriately Dressed: A True Story

FWCGayDressHeader

I always enjoy learning new things sewing-related. And not too long ago I learned something interesting about fabric. Quite interesting, indeed.

Apparently, fabric can be gay. Now, I never knew that fabric had any sort of sexual orientation. Gay, straight, or whatever. I just thought fabric was happy hanging out on the bolt until someone scooped it up and used it to make something even more fabulous.

Okay, in fairness, I must admit I’m not sure if it’s the fabric itself that is gay (born that way, perhaps?), or if the fabric becomes gay – perhaps, turned gay – during the process of being transformed into an item of clothing. Maybe during all the measuring, cutting, sewing, pressing, and so on, its latent gay tendencies are brought to the surface, no longer content to be closeted. Omg, perhaps that’s where the “in the closet” term comes from?! Fabric, in the form of clothing, is often kept in a closet…..

Despite the fact that I’m not entirely clear on the whole nature versus nurture thing, it’s reassuring to know that there is a sort of clothing police out there, roaming workplaces, astute enough to distinguish between straight and gay clothing, and bold enough to out the gay attire! And thankfully, so very thankfully, my mother was lucky enough to have worked in an establishment where a gaydar-gifted colleague alerted her to the proclivities of her dress.

KDress2

You might recall that a while back I wrote about my first foray into adult-sized sewing, and my experience sewing the Staple Dress pattern by April Rhodes. I made three Staple Dresses: one for myself and two as gifts for my sister and mother; and used different fabrics designed by Anna Maria Horner for each dress. I love the Staple Dress pattern, mostly for its simplicity. It’s a straight-forward design (bateau-style neckline, shirred waist, slightly A-lined bottom) and works for any figure. The uncluttered design allows the fabric to be the star of the show. I did not anticipate, however, just how much of a standout the fabric I selected for my mother’s dress would be.

KDressClose

For my mother’s Staple Dress, I chose Anna Maria Horner’s Parenthetical in Berry, from her Field Study collection. The fabric is a linen/cotton blend. The dresses I made for myself and my sister were 100% cotton, and while I love my dress, the difference in the way my mother’s dress drapes makes me a bit envious. This fabric comes in two other colorways — dark grey and natural. All three are gorgeous, but I chose the berry color for my mother because I think it’s a color that looks great on her – especially with a bit of a tan!

KDress6

My mother proudly wore the dress to work, and, well, it got her some attention. She was confronted in the office and told she was dressed “inappropriately.” She asked what was inappropriate about her attire.

“It’s gay.”

Seriously. In fact the assertion was repeated, without explanation, a couple more times when my mother asked for clarification.

This from a so-called professional. Wow. This is wrong on so many levels. Whether we give him the benefit of the doubt and say his choice of words was sloppy, or believe his words evidence a larger prejudice and a disgusting lack of sensitivity, it still shocks me when people behave this way. It depresses me, too, because somehow this man thought his behavior was actually appropriate, while the woman wearing a birghtly-colored dress, stockings (I always feel like I’m from the 1940s when I say “stockings”), and closed-toe shoes — all in accordance with the office-attire rules — is inappropriate.

My mother no longer works at this establishment. It was a temporary assignment where, ironically, she had been tasked with restoring order to a work environment that the administration acknowledged had become too lax and disorganized and inefficient. My guess is that this man was being spiteful and mean as a passive-aggressive means of objecting to the new authority my mother was attempting to inject into the workplace. He was like a little child sassing off to his parents at the dinner table when really he’s mad and anxious about something else entirely. Child-like behavior, but not excusable.

I admit that of course it doesn’t feel good to have something you made be ridiculed, but this man seems so small-minded that I barely spent a moment being offended. The part that really gets me, though, is how the whole incident likely made my mother feel. To have your attire — the way you look — be criticized in front of others, even if that criticism is misplaced, is embarrassing. It’s hard not to feel like you have somehow done something wrong or to feel shamed. Public-shaming is the behavior of bullies.

Even more though, I think my mother was really proud, the way only a parent can feel, to be wearing something her child made just for her. She knew how excited I was about the dress, and she knows how much I love sewing. Wearing the dress, especially publicly, was a sign of her pride in my creation and her love for me. If I think about it, it has probably been well over 25 years since I brought home something I made for my mother — and back then it was probably some sort of classroom art project for Mother’s Day! And while I believe my parents were proud of me during my days of lawyering, it was a kind of abstract pride. Yes, they were proud that I worked hard and progressed up the career ladder, but there was nothing tangible to share with them from my work. (Hey, mom and dad, I brought you a 150-page loan agreement. How d’ya like that?! Cool, huh?) It makes me sad to think my mom was probably a bit excited to be wearing the dress, and feeling proud of me, and then some curmudgeon came along and pooped on the moment. I realize there is no point crying over hurt feelings, but this whole experience was just so unnecessary that it makes it all the more frustrating.

We’ve come to live in a world where decorum is too often frowned upon as stodgy, where stretch pants are more ubiquitous than jeans, and baseball hats are commonplace at dinner tables. I’m guilty of this myself. T-shirts and jeans have become my “mom uniform”. But I still love getting dressed up. And I truly appreciate my mother dressing up in my creation!

KDress5

I don’t know, maybe it’s me. Back in my office days, I wore a ton of black. It was just easier – especially considering I wore suits to work a lot of the time — and it’s hard to go wrong with black. But since I’ve started sewing and perusing fabric on a regular basis, I have a much greater appreciation for color. I’ve embraced color and prints in my wardrobe and my sewing. Perhaps my perspective has changed so much that I don’t recognize this particular fabric as crazy, as too bold, as “gay”? What do you think?

Painted Pumpkins and Guilt-Free Moms

Painted Pumpkins and Guilt-Free Moms

When I decided to leave office work and stay home with my children, I imagined we would do lots of crafts. Of course, in my perfect mom fantasy world, I imagined the crafts would all be linked to various themes I would establish depending on the season, month, holiday, etc. Go ahead, laugh. That is exactly what my friends did when I admitted to them this past August that I had failed at developing a summer curriculum for my pre-schooler that would include a “letter of the week” and corresponding crafts. It’s a good thing they laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I laughed, too, and it made me realize that sometimes I can be a bit ridiculous by setting the motherhood bar a bit too high for myself. Not to mention the fact that I have not historically been a craftsy-type person, so this summer curriculum idea must have been fostered by too much time on Pinterest looking at all the amazing things that real crafty folks pin and re-pin.

This is certainly a much larger topic than I can do justice to in a blog post, but it strikes me how difficult it is for many moms (myself included) to dial back the pressure they create for themselves to be, or at least compare themselves to, the “perfect mom”. Who is this perfect mom that we too often put on a pedestal? I mean, really, if I stop and honestly think about it, I don’t know any mom (or any person, for that matter) that has every aspect of her life in perfect order. But as much as I know that, it is still hard to resist the feeling that somehow you’re not doing enough or doing it well enough. You see the child at the park with perfect diction and a perfectly coiffed mother, and you start that dangerous internal monologue, “I let my son watch three episodes of [fill in the blank] yesterday, and he still mixes up his pronouns, and I’m not sure he brushed his teeth this morning, omg so he’ll probably never go to college, and I haven’t really showered, like the kind where you actually wash and condition your hair, in three days, and…..” Or someone innocently asks if your child has reached a certain developmental milestone and then you find yourself wondering if your child is early or late to develop and googling the heck out of the topic.

I realize, too, that the concern and the comparisons are borne out of the desire to provide the very best for your child. And, unfortunately, the fact that too often moms are tagged with responsibility for this category of “stuff” and likewise blamed if something does fall through the cracks. So a reminder to myself: the perfect mom is the one who loves her children and makes them feel loved and special. Sometimes crankiness and yelling finds its way into the mix; heck, we’re only human. But, letters/colors/themes of the week and corresponding crafts are not mandatory.

All of that being said… I suppose I can feel pretty smug today because WE ACTUALLY HAD CRAFT TIME TODAY! Oh yeah, who is looking like a perfect mom now? Kidding!!! I really can’t take much credit, other than making sure we had the appropriate supplies on hand, because the idea came directly from Ruffles And Stuff.

Are you familiar with Disney and her website Ruffles And Stuff? It’s a wonderfully fun and whimsical site that features her craftiness in a sincere, unassuming manner. She shares generously with great tutorials and pictures, too. When she recently posted this tutorial involving pumpkins, paint, glue, and glitter, I knew we were in for some fun.

And fun it was. My daughter went down for her afternoon nap (so thankful she still takes two naps a day!), and my three-year-old and I got down to business. Once the kitchen table was adequately covered in newspaper, sleeves were rolled up and smocks were donned, out came the paint and the pumpkins. I had made the mistake of telling him about our pumpkin painting plans earlier in the morning, so I’d been peppered with requests to paint for hours.

This is an easy and fun project, and it pays big dividends with all the shine and glitter. We used acrylic paints that I picked up at Joann; a gold metallic and a coppery metallic paint. We also used (okay, so really, I selfishly hogged and used) glitter glue in gold. I never knew such a thing existed but have become quickly addicted. What an easy way to add some bling to crafts or anything. I’m sensing I may enter into a glitter overload phase soon – thankfully I bought only the small bottle.

We used mini pumpkins both because I was dealing with three-year-old hands and because I admit to loving their miniature cuteness. Every year I’m a sucker for the mini pumpkins, even though I know that on a pound for pound basis they are a complete rip-off! This project would completely work with larger pumpkins since they’d provide an even better and more versatile canvas. There is really an opportunity to get creative here.

I initially had high hopes of getting really fancy with our pumpkins, just like Disney made some polka-dot magic in her tutorial. But I quickly sensed that if I tried to direct my son too much, he was not going to play along. He was happy as a clam smearing the pumpkins with shiny paint. And I have to admit I like his pumpkins better, the way the natural orange peeks through the spots he missed and contrasts with the metallic sheen of the paint. Although, I do love the glittery bling on my pumpkins, too.  Even without special effects or intentional designs, the pumpkins look really special with a simple coat of metallic paint; it gives them an appropriate Halloween glow.

My son loved this project. He was so enthused and enthralled by it that I was wishing I had a dozen more pumpkins. We have a pumpkin-picking date with my parents in a few days, so perhaps he’ll get a second round with the paintbrush soon.