Preschool Graduation and True Mama North

Months. I planned months in advance for my oldest child’s preschool graduation. I sewed Abby a dress from a pattern that was on sale at Joann’s Fabrics – a blue and white French print dress with a satin ribbon tie and the kind of whirly, twirly skirt that makes little girls spin in the grass and makes their mamas wish they’d remembered to sew bloomers – and I made her baby sister a dress to match and her toddler brother a button-up shirt in coordinating fabric.

Isn’t it odd? I can no longer imagine a life when I had that kind of time or organizational ability or foresight or planning… or a table uncluttered and unsticky enough to lay out pristine fabric and dangerous pins and other temptations for children which I now keep carefully hidden away; my baskets of multicolored and dusty thread, my pinking sheers, and my seam ripper. When I think of the havoc my kids can wreak with these things, I wonder that I even leave them in my house at all.

On Saturday, my little boys graduated from preschool. And it was strange to me that I wasn’t at all jealous of the boy in the middle of the bunch whose mama dressed him in a white button-up, collared shirt paired with perfectly-fitting plaid knee-length shorts, hair trimmed and combed, and clean, unscuffed sandals.

It was strange to me to be the mama, this time, whose boys were there with unkempt hair. Cael tall and pround in his new red t-shirt from Grandma… and old, threadbare jeans shorts… and blue, green and orange Crocs with ankle-high black dress socks that he chose “because they’re my fanciest socks, and this is a fancy, fancy day.” And Cai in his brother’s tennis shoes because he couldn’t find his own and we were late getting everyone in the car… and black dress socks “because that’s a GREAT IDEA, Cael”… and tight, grey shorts that are three sizes too small… and an over-sized, striped polo shirt that hung so low in the back as to cover the shorts entirely and make  it look as though he was wearing none.

I spent 15 minutes preparing my boys for their graduation. Not hours or days or weeks or months. Fifteen minutes, most of them naked in the shower where I hollered things to Greg like, “Make sure there’s no food stains on the outside of their clothes!” And, “No! DEFINITELY NOT the black socks with shorts!” And, “Fine. If Cael wants to wear them that badly.” And, “Try to comb down the hair that’s sticking up,” which, of course, Greg forgot to do in the melee of activity, and so I spent time once we arrived at the park trying to squash down the cowlicks with mama spit.

You know, it’s funny. I think often about which way I prefer to parent. Which mama I want to be. And I do it with all things – discipline, bedtime, screen time, food choices, clothes, activities, and on, and on, and on. Which way is right? Which way is best? Which way is my True Mama North, and how do I make sure my Mama Compass is pointed that direction always?

And so, of course, I compare myself to the Other Mamas and Their Way of doing things. And now that I’ve been doing this Mama Gig for a while, I also compare myself to Old Mama Me to decide whether I’m headed the right way.

And I’ve come to this conclusion. I liked Old Mama Me. She was a fun mama to be, with her time and her creativity and her clean table. And she did her very best to have happy kids whose needs were met. The well-dressed kids weren’t facades to hide her disordered life; she would’ve told the messy truth to anyone who asked.

And I like the current Mama Me, even though I bring the mess along for the public ride more often, and even though I spit on my kids’ hair at the park. I don’t long for the well-dressed days any more than I’d long to lose the lessons that these minutes and hours and days and months have taught me.

Today doesn’t need to be good at the expense of yesterday. And my momming doesn’t need to be good at the expense of the mama who dresses her kids well and has a clean table. We all – the Other Mamas and Me, including the Other Mamas who I used to be – can point our Mama Compasses to True Mama North and travel the road together.

To my babies, Happy Graduation.
You are my True Mama North,
and I’m glad we walk the messy road together.

I love you.
Mama

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
11 comments
  1. “I don’t long for the well-dressed days any more than I’d long to lose the lessons that these minutes and hours and days and months have taught me.”
    Amen, momma!
    There is such joy in the journey, with all its mismatched outfits, sticky tables, and walls adorned with crayon art. Thanks for helping us, yet again, to see it!
    Sharon

  2. Amen, sister mama!
    You know we all think your kids are quite adorable, but wow, what Laura^ said. That kid on the far right has a priceless expression.
    I cried at my son’s preschool graduation. I cry at everything. They wore little caps and gowns. I’m gonna cry again just thinking about it……..

  3. Okay, the black socks. They are all my fault. I did not tell the boys they are dress socks. It all started with looking at low white sport socks, then low black sport socks (what could be more practical?), then they spotted the “fancy” ones that had dots, diamonds, checks, etc. And that was what they wanted, so what could a grandma say? I thought they’d be hiding inside their tennis shoes, and who would care? I should have known those two guys never do quite what you expect with what they’ve got!

  4. “Today doesn’t need to be good at the expense of yesterday”

    LOVE this.

  5. Oh my gosh, the kid on the right is adorable in this pic.

  6. Were you hiding somewhere at my twin girls preschool graduation? My girls looked the same as your boys! Hair unbrushed, non-matching outfits (we are all of sudden displaying our individuality), striped socks with a floral Easter dress on one and a pair of shorts and non matching shirt on the other. Sparkly tennis shoes with the striped socks and black patent dress shoes with the shorts combo. The fun never ends. I too found myself wondering why I was so lackidaisical about them leaving the house looking like that. Had my vast years of experience with my three older ones taught me that these are not the battles to fight or was I just so tired and run down that I didn’t care. Probably some of both. Don’t really care as they love me and I love them and THAT is what truly matters!

  7. Please tell Cael thank you for explaining the black sock phenomenon to me. I have a grandson who I believe thinks the same way. Even though I am NOT a fashion expert by any means, his mother has been a little worried 🙂
    And thanks again for your thoughts. When all is said and done–10 years down the road, it’s the love they felt that they remember. Not the clothes.

  8. Happy graduation!

  9. Aw, this brough tears to my eyes, Beth! Amazing how these thoughts are so similar to the ones stirring in my mind. The True Mama North is love. And giving of myself. And liking me enought so that my children can bask in my warmth instead of shivering in the coldness of the need for perfection. Thank you.

  10. Those are some darn cute kids! And funny thing . . . I didn’t notice what anyone else’s child was wearing except my child. I’m gonna bet most other moms were noticing only their own children’s clothing too. But I’m kinda wishing I had noticed the black dress socks, then I coulda wondered about your parenting choices and made some judgements in my head about those choices just for kicks. 🙂

  11. Love this. Beautiful! Happy Graduation Day xo

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