“Yeah, I’ll just go ahead and stay home with Carys,” Scott said resigned, “this is really horrible timing.”
Emma’s first ballet recital was on a Sunday afternoon. We had to have here there at 2:30, even though the performance wasn’t until four. Our two year old naps from about one to four every afternoon. I’ve been pretty faithful about keeping my children on the afternoon nap schedule for the sum of their little lives. I don’t take them anywhere during that time. Outings would be a mistake for everyone involved. I can’t tell you how many secretaries have been bewildered by my refusal to bring in a sick child during nap time.
‘Really you want a feverish, exhausted toddler in your office? That sounds super productive for everyone,’ is usually the refrain in my mind.
So I took Emma to her recital on my own. The dance studio we chose is one of the more laid back in our town; so all I needed to get for her ‘costume,’ was a light pink leotard, skirt and tights. I begged, borrowed, and shopped second hand for all parts of her costume. She’s four, she will wear it for a few hours, why should I spend a lot of money on that? In the interest of simplicity and eco-friendliness why can’t we all just pass around our daughter’s worn- for -two -minute -costumes.
I didn’t think my logic was off base.
A week before the recital I pulled out the pink tulle skirt that I had bought about a year ago at a garage sale for Emma to wear as dress up clothes. There was orange paint in a few choice spots. I don’t know it got orange paint on it. I’m an artist, my kid paints, I’m not the most attentive parent….Anyway, I hand washed it in the bathroom sink and got a fair amount out. I started dreaming up schemes to hot glue tulle around the top to cover the stains.
We gave it trial run at class the day before the recital and her teacher said it was just fine. I relaxed, and smashed my nightmares of staying up until midnight hot gluing tulle to my four year old’s ballet costume. Would she even notice? Would that give an enlarged sense of entitlement to get so fancy a costume? At my personal expense? Would she even know how much work that was?
The recital was held in a local high school auditorium. An auditorium far nicer than where many of my college classes were held. I turned my little one over to her ballet teacher and got a seat next to one of the other mom’s from her class. Then I started to notice how many girls seemed to have their entire families turn out for them. Then I started to see all the bouquets of flowers. Then I started to wonder.
Earlier in the class I had started to get the feeling that one of the other mother’s thought we were poor. We’re not. We don’t make a ton of money. But we’re still in the top two percent of the global pay scale. Sure my child’s costume was second hand. I could’ve bought the whole thing new. We could’ve afforded it.
But I didn’t want to buy it new. That seemed wasteful. Extravagant. I think I spent about six dollars, whereas I could have spent about forty five.
As all the other families filed into this gorgeous auditorium, I felt bad for Emma. She only had me, and I was certainly not toting a bouquet. A heated thought rose in my head,
‘But what if I want to be simple?’ What if I want to promote a life of material simplicity for my children? What if I don’t want them to have toys up to their eyeballs? What if I want them to be creative? What if I want her to take value in the effort and work in her performance and not the dollar amount of her costume?
Can I do that? Can I maintain these values? Without other people looking down on me? Can I keep from caring that other people might be looking down on me?