Through an odd combination of luck, happenstance and a bit of clever financial planning, Abigail has had the chance to attend an academic preparatory program and private preschool for the past three years. She’s learned quite a bit and been exposed to a wider variety of academics in that time. Next year she’ll integrate into public school but I’m quite thankful she’s had the opportunity.
This post is not about Abbi’s schooling though. It’s not even really about her. It’s still about me. Because it’s my blog, dammit.
Abbi’s school being what it is means that most of the people who send their kids to them tend to be rather affluent. Hence the attendance to anything that has to be referred to as an academic preparatory program. This is just fancy-talk for really expensive daycare. There are a few moms like me, securely middle class (on a good day and only if its not right after all the bills came due…) and a minuscule group of lower income families whose children have been admitted by way of scholarship.
However most of these parents are hard-working, career focused individuals who, let’s be honest here, rake in the dough. I know parents in the school are surgeons, successful lawyers, a few local politicians and a variety of executives from some of the most powerful companies here in the OK. They are all supportive parents who want the best for their kids and happen to have the money to make procuring the best just a smidgen easier. That’s not a bad thing by any means.
This becomes important because after three years of Abbi attending this place I still found myself self-conscious if I had to encounter another parent. The nature of their work dictates that most of them sport business suits, strands of pearls, fashionable three-inch heels and a surgically attached iPhone. I’d show up in chucks, denim and the remnants of breakfast somewhere on my person . I have always felt under-dressed dropping my kid off at daycare.
The environment I’ve always worked in has been relatively casual. At least my day jobs have. I own and wear well business suits when the occasion necessitates it or at hockey, but for the most part no one cares what I look like between the hours of 9 and 5 Monday through Friday. Its a perk of working in contracting & freelance writing. The words you string together are rarely influenced by whether or not you managed to get your hair to lay down flat or drummed up the energy to actually iron something in the last six years. The words don’t care and neither do my bosses. Doesn’t stop the socially-aware, judgmental portion of my brain for chastising me for shoving my hair under a ball cap and wearing the same pair of jeans for the third day in a row as I stand next to a woman wearing slacks, a cardigan and Jimmy Choos. And I just knew that she and everyone else like her were judging me just as harshly from their social high ground on top of those spike heels.
Here’s the thing. It’s not like I want to look like that. I don’t. I’d break my damn ankle trying to walk and stairs would be totally out of the question. I like my jeans. I like my t-shirts. I like that my flat-iron is only necessary for special occasions. Heck, at this point, so is eyeliner. Just the same, part of my brain is still living in high school and wants to be a part of the cool kids.
This morning though, something changed. It took one sidelong glance and 1.45 seconds and I realized I am, in fact a part of the cool kids. I had it all wrong. Those parents in the suits and slacks are judging me, but not the way I thought. As I walked into the school’s sliding doors a woman in a brilliantly colored skirt suit walked by. Her orange blazer was perfectly offset by turquoise pumps and an emerald green hand bag hung heavily on her arm. No wrinkles in her white blouse, no breakfast bar crumbs on the lapel.
As we passed each other, she gave me a look; not of critique but of longing. Something occured to me that hadn’t before. For as fancy and pretty as most of them look, I’m betting they don’t get dolled up come Saturday morning. If given the choice a good bit, though not all, would don cargo pants and a tank over an A-line skirt and blazer. Half of those parents would probably kill to wear jeans, strappy sandals and a Hunger Games t-shirt to work. I can show up to work in yesterday’s yoga pants and no one will bat an eyelash. The parents at Abbi’s school likely have a “professional” dress code to adhere to. I don’t. If I want to look cute, I can. If I want to look one step up from homeless, I can do that too. I’ve figured out most of those folks I felt so self-conscious around would trade their monkey suits for bananas to be comfortable and casual at the office.
So thank you to the parent in the orange suit. That portion of my brain, quick to berate and castigate, has been made a casualty of casualness. And I hope very much that you get to wear sweatpants to work someday.