I’m a member of a popular Facebook Group called Grown and Flown. Ostensibly it’s for parents whose kids are in the high-school-college-just beyond age group. The topics covered are too diverse to count, and can focus on all sorts of highs and lows, most pertaining to the drama of young adulthood. Some posts are braggy, some are heartbreaking. Most of the time people are looking for help, such as advice on how to pay for college, what to do when your child’s heart is broken after that first big romance ends, or how to deal with kids driving you nuts.
The other day someone posted something that had been discussed before (frankly, most topics get re-introduced regularly. Reminds me of how similar we all really are). This topic: “What’s a reasonable amount to spend for a prom dress? We are not trying to create entitled attitude but do want to make this special for her.”
Now any time anyone asks a question on social media the answers are gonna range from helpful to hurtful. This was no different. This was my response:
“No one can tell you that! It’s up to you… To me, it’s not about the money. It’s about the memory of THAT MOMENT…don’t do what you can’t afford. But do what feels right. I leave practical for grocery shopping and doing housework.”
Recently I was reintroduced to the high-stress world of prom dress shopping. I thought that those days were behind me (I also thought my days of wondering what school my kid would attend were over as well, but that’s another post). However: Drummer Boy is a high school senior, and he and Singer Girl are still going strong, even after a year of separation (sort of — they saw each other every month, lol).
So it’s prom time again. Which means, of course, shopping again. She wants it to be special but was torn, because she knows last year we spent a lot, and she wants to be practical. It’s not her prom. And wouldn’t it be nice to get something she can wear twice?
I totally understood where she was coming from. And I appreciated it. So when we ventured out, we tried to be fiscally responsible and cognizant of her desire not to look like she was in high school still. She had a look in mind, but we couldn’t find it. Then we started broadening the search parameters and kept venturing away from re-wearable and back. Then we danced towards glitzy and pricey, then retreated.
Anxiety was building. I tried to keep an even facade and let her lead the way. But she was stressed, and the whole time we shopped, I was battling the inner demons of wanting to give her everything and wanting to pull back. After a while, I realized that even though she didn’t want us to go overboard, I was prepared to do so. Why?
Because every day I hear of a family that will never again see their daughter dress up in a beautiful gown. Or of a mother who can’t be there when her daughter shops for her wedding dress. Or a father who won’t be there to be uncomfortable when he sees a young man look at his daughter in awe.
I’m not morbid. But life sometimes sucks. And it’s effing unfair. And shit happens.
Last week we lost a friend. I wasn’t super close with him or his wife, but close enough that we always stopped when we saw each other in the schools or gravitated towards each other at work functions. My husband worked with him and was close to Mark, and the loss gutted him. An amazing man, gone too soon (only 62). Bigger than life — and now, suddenly, gone.
I tried to put myself in his wife’s position, shocked and stunned and overwhelmed. All those plans: gone. All the dreams that would go unrealized. What would it be like, to not be able to do another date night? To quarrel over the kids’ choices? To laugh at the foster dogs and their antics?
Time is short, and memories are precious. I’m not saying anyone should do anything that will truly be a burden for their family. If it’s a choice between paying your bills or buying the fancy, expensive, never-to-be-worn again dress, don’t buy the dress.
If I can afford to spoil my kids, I am going to. If it’s not a financial hardship for my husband and me to take a trip, we’re going now — and not waiting for someday. If I don’t have to choose between groceries and the overpriced glass of chardonnay from a winery a friend raved about, I’m buying it (but I might not share).
When it came time to choose the prom dress, we actually went home with 6 options and we had a voting party with Drummer Boy and HWSNBN. Silly? Maybe. But it’s a memory for all four of us now. Someday Singer Girl could become Mrs. Drummer Boy. Who knows? And someday, when people are reminiscing, this story might be laughed about in a moment of sadness and loss.
Ultimately she picked the first dress she tried on — a respectably priced one. But she actually really loved another outfit as well. It was a jumpsuit, and not really right for prom. But she loved the way it made her feel (and frankly, when an outfit makes you feel good, you should buy it. Period.), so we kept it as well. So yeah, we weren’t totally practical.
But that day was well spent. We didn’t fight. We had fun. What could’ve been a stress-filled trip ended up being a happy one. Maybe when she wears that jumpsuit, she’ll remember that day and smile. I don’t get enough days with my kids anymore, so I want to treasure what I get. And I think they get that.
There’s a funny meme going around, that reminds you to think about what you wear carefully because if you die that will be your ghost outfit. Silly, yes. But it also reminds me: be careful how you end every conversation or experience with someone. If they never see you again, that will be their last memory of you. At our friend’s funeral, one of the sons said that losing their dad suddenly wasn’t as bad because they always knew where they stood with him. He never let them wonder if they were loved.
Buy the dress.
Sometimes my daughter comes home from school and flings her backpack to the farthest piece of furniture, desperate to distance herself from the weight of her world.
“I have soooo much homework,” she wails. I have learned to give her a wide berth (13 year old storms are not for the faint-hearted). After she calms down, I remind her of the advice I used to give her when she was little and faced with the Herculean task of cleaning her toys in the basement: focus on one little thing at a time, and slowly but surely it will get done. Now, she no longer looks at me with awe like she did when she was 4. Instead, she rolls her eyes as if to say “how did I get cursed with such an imbecile for a parent?” Then she trudges off, texting her woes to her friends. Later, though, she reemerges (usually to feed), declaring she is all done. And she looks at me, again marveling at my idiocy, when I say “already? I thought you had a lot.”
I can use the same advice for myself when it comes to building a house. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I usually get a standard response when I tell folks you are building a house from scratch (actually less than scratch — we have to subtract the old house before we can add the new. And I hate math). People get a sort of overwhelmed, sympathetic, terrorized look in their eyes, as they contemplate all the decisions that have to be made. Is it weird that the prospect of all that planning makes me a little giddy? It is a challenge (and hey, it IS all about shopping, after all). But I do want this project to go as smoothly as possible — or at the very least, have no delays that are my fault. I learned that lesson a long time ago, when watching my parents add on their home. One day the contractor showed up, ready to install the tile. Unfortunately, he had neglected to ask my parents to purchase the tile, so HE went out and picked one on their behalf (luckily he found something okay, and in stock, and in the right price range, but still).
So I am constantly asking our team (the builders and architect): what do you need from me and when? Obviously picking the lot was number one, then we had to deal with the survey and watershed (see previous blog entries for the gory details there). But then came the fun part: shopping! So I eagerly awaited my first assignment, but was kind of surprised when I learned that the first thing I needed to pick out was kitchen appliances.
Turns out that Architect Mike needs the exact measurements for the fridge, stove, etc, as he designs the kitchen around them. Builder John created a budget for me, based on our overall budget. But it’s hard to know if you are in the black while you are choosing, as list prices and builder prices differ significantly. So I figured I will shop for what I want, and adjust to what I need if I blow the budget. Builder John also gave me a list of suggested showrooms for any and all needs (tile, plumbing, appliances, flooring, cabinetry, etc). I headed to Ferguson’s in Golden Valley for my first foray. It’s a very fun place — they have so much stuff — plumbing, lighting, grills, appliances (did I mention I love shopping? I would have kicked as a caveman, as I can hunt and gather with the best of ’em. ).
Anywho, after shopping, my sales guy, Nick, emailed me my price list. Surprise: I had to adjust. I am trying really hard to stick to the budget as closely as possible, knowing that at some point down the line I will want to get alittlerazy on something (it’s all about balance). So Nick and I started an email relationship: I wanted to cut my costs by about 40%, so the 6 burner stove became a 4 burner, and the fancy oven that basically planned dinners on its own went bye-bye. I also found a fridge I liked better, for considerably less. All in all, I managed to come in two grand under, which is good, because next up came plumbing shopping.
Architect Mike needed my bathtub dimensions, so it was back to Ferguson’s. Salesperson Melissa and I hit the ground running (with my slightly shell-shocked parents in tow. Thanks Sharon and Wayne for hanging in there!). In under two hours, I managed to find, among other things, 2 tubs, 2 shower heads, 4 toilets, eight sinks,, and all the faucets to fill them up. After receiving THAT email from Melissa, I was again over budget. Now, mind you I could’ve let it go, and just let the kitchen and plumbing balance each other out. But I am ruthless, and trimmed it down to budget size. I did insist on my biggest splurge: an amazing sink by Blanco.
It’s huge, it’s chocolate colored, made out of an almost indestructible granite composite and it has a built-in drainboard attached. It is so sexy (yeah, I know it’s just a sink. Leave me alone). It makes me want to do dishes. Sort of. Not really. But I love it.
I guess that’s the other thing about eating an elephant. Some parts will be juicier than others,and some might not be as easy to swallow. But it all has to be done, one bite at a time.