Monday, September 15, 2014

Adjusting Priorities


     I know I've been talking about getting ready for school quite a bit lately. It's possibly the most time consuming, energy requiring, intense part of life at TheZoo.  And, I'm talking about it again, today.
     We have our curriculum and learning plans finished. Paper, pencils, erasers, binders, and planners are in place and ready to rock.  No one has a new first day of school outfit, and what's great about that, is that not one child seems to think that's a problem!
     A few of my favorite traditions are new school outfits, new Easter outfits, new Christmas outfits, and new christmas day pajamas.  Yeah, I like clothes. A lot! It brings me loads of pleasure to dress my kiddos up in flashy new duds. I remember feeling especially confident as a child walking into school with my stylish new outfit. The feeling of a new start in my pretty spring dress for Easter celebrations. I wasn't an outgoing kid. I was certainly reserved and didn't like attention. Those occasions, though, when I had a special new outfit, I felt shiney and able to say hello to people.
     I began that tradition with my kids, thinking that I'd be giving them that same gift of confidence with other people for at least a few days each year. Something happened though, with most of my children, that makes them different from me. They are confident. They don't need new clothes to make them feel confident, they just are. They like new clothes, sure, but they are comfortable in the clothes they have, that still fit them. The first couple of weeks of school are still warm enough to wear what they've been wearing since spring. There are still many of their clothes that are decent and in great shape. They will need new clothes at the beginning of winter when their bodies seem to want to grow.  There were three years in a row when I made sure that kids had long pants and long sleeves, hoodies, coats, new sneakers, and boots for rain and snow, all a few weeks before school began. As December closed in, I organized the christmas gifts, purchased what I needed and was ready to go. Then, as their long holiday break ended and we were ready to head back to school in January, those little zooligans were complaining about tight shoes and pants, and showing me how their sweaters and coats no longer reached their wrists. Gah! Coming up on the coldest months, and nothing fits!?!?
     I had to scurry and hurry to all of the sales at all of the places before the winter clearances were complete and packed away. It wasn't fun or satisfying. It was horrible. Awful. Terrible. No good. Very bad. The stress and anxiety with driving, spending time that should have been used firming up what we might need to add to or take out of our academic approach, not to mention the budget stretch and the whole going through each and every article of clothing for each and every kid! Ugh!
     Now that we've adjusted our clothing issue to the obvious switch between summer and winter, we've also adjusted the clothing size hustle to be expected during the holiday break.  Now I have built those activities into our somewhat loose schedule over those two weeks, and everyone expects it! There is still a little bit of stress, but it's met with joy. The Zooligans are used to getting 'new' clothes out of bins that we keep stored, and from second hand and consignment stores, and from clearance racks elsewhere. They find no shame in this. They are thrilled to have nice looking clothing that covers their bodies and keeps them in line with the weather. They don't require clothing to give them confidence. They like wearing some clothing items more than others just because they like them. That's all. What a concept!
     In adjusting the family's priorities for when we need to replace clothing, I've adjusted my priorities for why we need to replace the clothing. The truth is, I still find myself looking for the right blouse, or better fitting jeans, or the cutest boots when I begin to feel that I need a confidence boost. I have to remind myself that if one of my children approached me asking for clothing so they could feel better about themselves, I'd have to council them about their self image and whose measuring stick they're using to determine their worth. I have to do the same thing.

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