Pssst! Moms, Read This! Our Kids Listen to Us, I Have Proof!
My nearly teenage daughter made me cry today, but not because of anything she did wrong, it was because of something she did so right! Read on, please.
Skye & I (far too many years ago)
I don’t know about you, but most days I feel like no one listens to me, especially my kids because, of course, they already know everything, right?! Usually, I feel like a so so parent, perhaps on the higher end of average. Maybe not a great one, but certainly not a terrible one; I read about the latter all the time and I know categorically that I am not one of them. Please read the Crime section of any given paper, if you ever need affirmation of just how great a parent you actually are–I do this from time to time. There are those days when you lose your patience; you say all the wrong things and set the worst example for your children (like every day you drive in the UAE). There are also those rare days when you step back and notice something great that you have done, often unwittingly. I rarely acknowledge these moments, but I am going to take a moment to do that here, because I think it’s sometimes healthy to dwell on what you have done right as a parent.
My oldest daughter, Skye, is 12—soon to be 13. Yes, she has been acting like a teenager for a year or more, so I like to think we have been well primed for what’s to come. Gosh, I hope so! Yes, she behaves unfortunately some nights and says some really thoughtless things to me and to her father—hourly to her little sister. But let’s not dwell on that today. I am certain that there will be another day soon when I will need to vent about that.
So getting back to the story, we set off to the mall, the girls were excited. My friend was excited—she loves to shop, and she clearly has a lot more energy than I do! I needed her there desperately though because she, unlike me, has style, and I hoped she might impart this to my daughter, which thankfully she did. My friend has been here just as long as I have, but she is in possession of so much more information about the clothes and stores here than I. She sped through the aisles from store to store throwing her nose up to almost each and every item. She understood—even from afar—when a store was selling rubbish. It’s a talent.
We found H&M—a store we both know and like—and skipped in. They bee lined it to some blingy stuff in the rear of the store. They were all more aware of how one is supposed to dress onstage than I am. The mother and daughter combo took moments to piece together some really extraordinary costume combinations. They both have that uncanny ability to mix and match things I just would not put together, but when I see them put together, they look fabulous. My daughter watched in delight. In a very short time, they cobbled together three potential costumes from ordinary teenybopper clothes into something fit for a teen pop star–I’m telling you this is a talent! I can say that, because it’s a talent I will never, ever possess. The girls zoomed into the dressing rooms, parading in and out in their outfits. Skye’s little sister and my friend acted as the judges. The dressing room brimmed with giggling and happiness. They were having so much fun, and you could tell they loved how they looked. All they needed was some tinsel town soundtrack to make the fashion show straight outta Hollywood. Everyone was having fun but I was worried.
This is not my cup of tea. I shuddered silently at the thought of the price tag. While we can, of course, afford little luxuries such as this, we usually don’t because, to us it seems kind of wasteful to buy an outfit that’s probably only made to be worn once or twice. Skye’s dad is very into sustainability, and I guess he is rubbing off on me in a positive way (but don’t tell him I said that), since I was a bit of a spender before we met. He regularly holds me to task about not perpetuating the “throw away culture” that the US compels its citizens to foster, and to buy high quality items–only when absolutely necessary. Not much fun, I know, but we all know it’s true. We also do have to watch our finances now, as our whole very presence in this country has been, at times, precarious, unlike many of my friends here more given to what everyone considers the “Expat Life” of lavish spending and frequent holidays. I watched as they threw all the outfits over their arms in elation mentally adding it all up and agonizing a bit inside about the impending disbursement. The judges all agreed that one little, blingy black dress and matching jacket was THE ONE! They had to have it! Skye clung to my arm and implored me “Can I have it, mom? I really love it! And, it’s practical! I can where it anywhere.” She was shaking a bit with a mixture of happiness and excitement. I replied, “Yes, honey. Sure” with the very best feigned smile I could split my face into. She could tell though. She knew I wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade even if it chewed into money that I had set aside for other things. I did not want deprive her of something she needed, and I also didn’t want to seem cheap, even though I know that I am–Skye knows that too—so, I said Yes.
After I said yes—the answer she should have wanted to hear—she started to put the items back on the racks. She turned to me, shaking her head sadly and she said, “No, mom. That’s all right. I don’t have to have this. I can wear something else.” Her face darkened and her smile faded. She looked down at her feet. I felt horrible. I knew she was worried about me and that I might be spending too much money–money that maybe I should not be spending. I hugged her, and I lifted her face up to me and I said, “Skye, I said you can have it. I want you to have it. You look beautiful in it, and you need it for the Talent show.” I was being honest this time. I meant it. I really did want her to feel beautiful and special and, if wearing this outfit did that, I needed her to have it. She looked into my eyes, but she still looked dismayed and said, “No, mom. It’s too much money, and I don’t need it. You always tell me it doesn’t matter what you wear. It’s a Talent show. It’s about how I sing, isn’t it?!” She was very right. Yet, she was also a little wrong. With such conviction, Skye had just echoed back to me everything I have always said to her when I thought she wasn’t listening. She knew intuitively that clothes do not make the woman. What’s on inside is what counts. She had just demonstrated this to me. My work is done. I wanted to cry. I am crying now as I type this. I am so very proud that she understands the value of a “dirham” (or a dollar), but saddened that she doesn’t understand that sometimes it’s all right to pamper yourself, just a little bit. Life is too short to worry all the time. I have so much respect for her and what she did because it could have played out so very different. With this, I want to impart on Skye that, every now and then, it’s all right to splurge a bit—as long as no one is hurt by your actions or it’s NOT money that you don’t have. I have learned this the hard way. I have an uneasy relationship with money. I fear sometimes I am passing this onto her. These were the negative thoughts that ran through my mind when the tables turned, and I found myself atypically trying to convince my 12-year-old daughter that she absolutely needed to have this outfit.
Pass it on.