Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Sometimes I get the feeling that my main purpose on this planet is to make other people feel better about their own inadequacies.

For instance.

The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store, behind a trendily dressed mom with her toddler daughter. The little girl was grabbing candy bars from the display, and the mother was patiently returning the candy bars to their spots.

My five-year-old pointed at his sister. “She does the same thing,” he told the mom, who nodded.
“I can chew gum,” said my son.
She nodded again.
“My brother just eats the gum.”

At that point I was about to comment on the little girl’s tidy pigtails, since I’ve never managed to keep any hair accessories in place longer than five minutes. I glanced over at my daughter to see if she was still wearing her hair clip.

She was, sort of. The clip was just hanging loosely onto a few strands of hair.

Right then I realized that I hadn’t actually taken a good look at the children before loading them up in the van and bringing them to the store. So I took stock, trying to view them not as the precious and complex individuals I had raised from birth, but instead as an outsider might see them.

I’ll be honest. They were looking a little rough.

Along with the pathetic dangling hair clip, my daughter’s hair had a few other issues. For one, it was falling into her eyes so that she could barely see. She also had a clump of hair that was stuck together and plastered to her neck via orange juice. The same juice had discolored the entire front of her shirt. And, she wasn’t wearing shoes.

Next to her in the rocket ship shopping cart sat my three-year-old son. His beige shorts were speckled with mud, and he had recently decorated his legs with a ball point pen. Then there was his hair. It was long. Not Pottery-Barn-Kids-child-model long. Just your run-of-the-mill unruly, over the ears, uneven in the back, desperately-needs-a-haircut long. The average onlooker would have no way of knowing that my son despises haircuts. That hair clippers strike fear in his heart. That every attempt to gently and carefully trim his hair turns into an intense, distressing, flailing scream-o-rama. The average onlooker would probably surmise that we’re just lazy, neglectful parents who can’t be bothered to take our kid in for a haircut.

I looked back to my oldest, who was now explaining in full detail which types of gum and candy are his favorites and why. His worn gray T-shirt had two large purple splotches from the popsicle he’d enjoyed earlier. He had dirt under his fingernails and a severe case of bed-head, which helped draw attention away from the green paint on his left ear.

Then there was my own personal appearance. My clothes were smeared with all the orange juice, mud, and popsicle residue that had rubbed off my children. I hadn’t bothered to put on makeup or fix my hair. My neglected nails were of assorted lengths and my hands were dry and cracked.

So the verdict is: maybe we need to spend a little more time in the grooming and general upkeep department. Or at least glance in a mirror before going out in public.

But, I bet that mom in front of me, along with any other mom who got a look at my crew, sure felt like she had it together. Those other moms were probably thinking to themselves: Hey, it’s been a rough day, but at least my kids look presentable. Heck, I even have a pedicure. Actually, I’m doing great!

No need to thank me, ladies. That’s what I’m here for.

1 comment:

Jamminsoul said...

Your post has me smiling at 2:00 in the morning! Your sense of humor is just so real. At least for me. Boy can I relate! I teach school in the same town where I live....this town. Somewhere I think there's an unwritten rule about not living in the same town you teach. I know there is, that's why all the smart teachers live in some town close, but not close enough to use the grocery store. It seems like every time I go in there and I haven't participated in my daily grooming ritual for the day, I run into one, or two, or three of my students and a couple of parents, and maybe another teacher who lives in town but never goes out the house without make-up and clean clothes. I have tried wearing sun glasses, but it's a small Iowa town and people know.

I just keep telling myself that I am not trying to make a "fashion statement" anyway, and it's summer, and...and...and...

Keep smiling!