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Buy the Dress

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.

But.

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.

Goals.

Buy the dress.

 

Dear Parents:

A letter to the parents at my kids’ alma mater, Minnetonka High School:
Today is the first day in 17 years I haven’t had the first day of school dash. I (sort of) envy you all! If it’s your first day of high school, know that there are so many moments ahead — great and awful. Sorry, but it’s true. Always remember it’s the bad stuff that gives us the perspective to know what is truly awesome. It’s those eye-rolling “you don’t understand” heated discussions that make you cherish those times when you find them watching a Pixar movie they adored as a kiddo, and ask you to sit down and watch too.
 
BTW: the school is not that big once you get to know it (do friendly presence and see for yourself), they really don’t need lockers or coats to survive, and every kid’s path is the right one. Don’t let anyone tell you differently: I refused to allow my daughter to take more than two honors classes her freshman year, and some gasped. The teachers and counselors thought I was brilliant. She graduated honors roll every quarter, with tons of AP and IB. My other one? Barely graduated, in part because “they” told me he had to do honors classes and it screwed his path up. He’s good now, but his academic career would’ve been better if I had listened to my gut. Listen to yours. But know you will make mistakes. It’s cool.
 
If you are sending your last one off on their senior year: yes, you will say “last time” a lot this year. Don’t dwell: enjoy. If you see a lot of your kid, that’s great. If you have to ask for proof of life snapchats because they are so busy soaking in all the lasts, that’s fantastic, even if it doesn’t feel that way.  It means they are ready. And when they are finally gone, it makes the emptiness seem normal!
Encourage them to do EVERYTHING.
Take risks — pick the college that you have never heard of, rather than the one everyone is attending, if it is the right one.  If it ends up not being the right one, change schools.
Make mistakes: better to learn how to recover from them at home than without the family safety net. Tell them it’s ok if they don’t know what they want to do: 95% of the kids who say they do, don’t. Or will change their mind. That’s fine. If they want to learn a trade, let them. They will be financially well off and always employed (seriously: I have people from three different blue collar trades coming to my house this week. They will be handsomely paid and I will fawn over them when they fix what I could not. Think about it).
Tell them to go to the dance/the party/the concert/the play/the game.  Ask that guy/girl out.  If it sucks, it was one night they’ll never remember.  If it is awesome, it just might be that one night they will never forget.
 
And you?
 
Hang out with friends. Take a class. Talk with your spouse. No spouse? Do something you’ve always wanted to do but a significant other might’ve gotten in the way. Do not wait until the kids are gone to start filling those empty spaces. We are so busy every weekend that we rarely miss the kids. I mean, I would kill to hear my daughter sing, but that’ll come (she’ll gig over winter break at Excelsior Brewing Company — watch for my pathetically excited posts). I’ll visit her for parents’ weekend in Nashville in a couple weeks. She’s coming home for Homecoming. My son will return for a visit in October from Seattle, and we’re taking him and his buddy to Vegas in November for the first time.
Sure, I miss them.  But as much as I love them, I don’t need them. And they don’t need me the same way anymore. And it’s okay.
 
So enjoy the frenzy. Take the pictures. Hope that they tell you more than “it was fine” when you ask about their day later — whether face to face or via text (both are ok). You do you. They will do they. And you will all have a great year!
Go Tonka!

One down, one to go!

Got back last night from Syracuse, NY, where Singer Girl was auditioning.

As you’ll recall from my last post, ’tis been a bit stressful around these parts.  I have been trying to find my inner grown up, and held my tongue and smiled pleasantly a lot over the last few days. We flew in a day early to tour the campus.  I had already decided to spring for the club level at the Sheraton — a brilliant call, if I may say so (and I may.  It’s my blog, after all).  The extra cash got us free breakfast, and snacks and our own bar in the evenings, plus the club room was open 24 hours.

That was the best part.  Singer Girl was wound a little tight.  She has always been angry if anyone was home when she needed to rehearse, often refusing to even do a warm up unless I left the house (so she didn’t warm up.  Until she pays the mortgage, she is not kicking me out of my own home, thankyouverymuch). But because of the club room, she got the hotel room to herself for awhile, and I just took my laptop and hung out with Mr. Wine.  Win-win, wine-wine!

When she texted me the all clear, she was starving.  Room service was an obvious choice, as we were travel worn and not willing to put shoes, or bras, back on and go out in public.  But I pulled a teaching moment: if she wanted a steak brought to her under a silver platter, SHE needed to place the order.  She was horrified. She refused.  “I can’t! I don’t know how!” I shrugged, and said I didn’t need to eat. She, however, was ravenous.  She stared at the phone, terrified, absolutely flummoxed on how to start (kids these days.)  I showed her the little button on the phone that said room service, and she dipped her toe into the shallow waters of independence.  A hurdle had been crossed.  A woman dependent on over-priced mashed potatoes and tiny salt and pepper shakers was born.

Next day was the tour, which was cool.  Very pretty campus, Syracuse.  People were friendly, weather wasn’t anything we weren’t used to, school seems to have what she needs.  The rest of the day we were hotel bound; she did homework and texted Drummer Boy, I worked on planning parties for puppies and high school seniors. That evening she needed more practice time, and so I was sent to “my room,” where I met my new best friend.  The lovely gal working the bar greeted me with a warning: “I pour big.”

Come to mama!

My already-oversized glass brimming with Merlot, I sat down and worked some more.  A little later the Wine Fairy brought over a second glass — on the house — also perilously close to overflowing. Damn, gurl. I’m not sure what work I got done, or which emails I sent, but if you got some sloppy declaration of love, I apologize. And I hope I didn’t volunteer for something new… My Bartender Angel announced she had to close up — would I like anotherhouse? Um, I had barely finished half the second one — but she insisted on topping it off.

Needless to say: if Singer Girl ends up at Syracuse, I know where I will stay for parents weekend.

The next morning was the audition.  I tiptoed around the room, giving her her space.  I watched surreptitiously as she pulled out her wardrobe choices.  We had yet to discuss clothing options, as I was fiercely rebuffed on the subject last week.  It’s a delicate dance, when asked “do you think I should wear this or this?” when neither are what you would’ve picked, but her only choices are what’s in the suitcase and it’s not about you anyway.  Several changes later, she was ready, looking very cute, even if not wearing what I had read she should wear.

But she was right, and I was wrong.

Yes, she was the only girl not in a skirt or dress. Yes, her bra straps showed. Yes, she wore bright yellow doc martens instead of the more modest dark colored boots and heels of the other musicians.  But she was herself, and the others in the room sort of regarded her as a threat for being so unique.  The judges in the audition told her they just loved her boots.  She bonded with one over their shared love of Led Zeppelin.  She came out of that audition beaming, lighter than I’d seen her in months.  I don’t know if she got in, but she was glad it was done.

Next week we fly to Miami for her second and last audition.  I learned this week that most of the musicians were doing auditions numbering in the double digits — made me nervous we were putting her eggs in too few baskets.  That thought re-occurred when I learned that at Syracuse they were only accepting 40 students in the music school for 2018 — and only 10 in her program.  Gulp.  But she will be good. I have faith in her — those boots were made for singing.

I don’t know what she will wear for the audition in Miami — but I know it can’t be the same outfit.  We did have one crisis moment: she had left the waiting room to go warm up, then came back a few minutes late, loudly whispering,  “Hey mom! I need your help!”

WWWWWHHHHAAATTTT?

I rushed out, eager to see what she needed.  Was it a word of encouragement? A hug?

Nope. Her zipper broke — did I have any safety pins? I did not. But this was my moment.  My MOMent.  Why I was there.  I rushed about, asking total strangers for safety pins.  It was looking dire.  I finally found a woman in an office who dredged some out of her junk drawer, plus requisitioned some cute “Go Syracuse!” buttons that were to go on jacket lapels.  It wasn’t pretty, but her pants stayed up. And I helped.  We’ll never forget that moment — even as she had one foot out the door, on her way to the future, she had to turn back to mom one last time.

No matter what happens in Miami, we will always have Syracuse.

(Oh yeah: I finally got my new car! She’s a 2018 Mazda Cx9, and I luff her.  Actually bought her last weekend, but we decided to add a few things — roof rack, remote engine starter and some rust protection coating stuff, as car warranties against rust are null and void in Minnesota, the land of road salt. They’d have had her ready mid week, but we were going to be gone, so we waited until today.  Went to get my new wheels — and we couldn’t register the remote starter as the computer insists that it already belongs to someone else.  The baffled staff had never seen that before — so they need to bring her back in to get that fixed.  Of course. Two steps forward, one step back!)

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