kellie martin's lessons from a princess
How my daughter taught me how to not sweat the small stuff by Kellie Martin (originally published in Ricki Magazine's first issue)
My daughter’s nursery school held a high tea every spring. Kids learned about manners, waltzed a little bit, and—most importantly—they dressed up. I mean seriously dressed up, like in the fanciest gowns they owned. My daughter Maggie, four years old at the time, loved to don a major gown and “play pretend” more than anything else in the world. This event was made for her.
As I’m sure you can imagine, for me as a mom, this was one high-stakes high tea. Excited in the weeks leading up to the event, my daughter constantly debated which of her many swanky dresses was the swankiest. I worried about what my four-year-old would wear as though I were dressing her for prom. Were there enough princess frocks in Maggie’s closet for her to choose from? I wanted her to feel special, magical, lovely, loved—in whichever gown she opted to wear.
The morning of the tea, I drove Maggie to school, then headed off to work myself. I was sitting at a lunch meeting, more than an hour after the high tea was over, when I realized I had dressed my daughter all wrong for the occasion. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t be such a helicopter mom, Kellie! You’re too worried about the little things.” Maybe you’re thinking I was freaking out about having chosen the pink chiffon instead of the peach taffeta?
Sigh... if only.
I had sent my little Maggie to high tea not in a princess gown, but in black pants, black boots and a black shirt. Dressed in an outfit that would suit Angelina Jolie, not Julie Andrews. Put together like a beatnik psyched to slam
some poetry, not a lady worthy of a waltz. Yep, all those weeks obsessing about her outfit, and I had completely forgotten about the tea. I broke out in a cold sweat, jumped up from my seat at the lunch meeting, and rushed home.
I ran into the house with my car still running, grabbed Maggie’s favorite fancy dress of the moment, and drove straight to her school like a madwoman, tears streaming down my face. To think that my daughter, the queen of dress-up, was trapped in a school full of friends in full costume, while she was stuck in black sweats! What if the other kids were mean? What if she felt totally left out of the fun? My heart was just breaking for her.
Arriving at the school, I stormed into the office, fancy dress in tow. The director was the first to see my tear-stained face. She rushed toward me, thinking something must be terribly wrong. I pulled myself together just enough to hand over the dress, explaining sniffle sniffle that I forgot sniffle sniffle that the tea sniffle was today sniffle and that I didn’t want Maggie to feel bad about herself and—stifled sob—“Here! Just give her this fancy dress!”
The director looked at me sympathetically, but she was clearly confused. “Maggie had a wonderful time at the tea,” she said, consoling me. “She waltzed, ate scones and sipped her tea as happily as all of the other kids.” She did? Were we talking about the same kid here? My little queen of the costume closet? “In fact, she didn’t even seem to notice at all that she wasn’t dressed up.” Really? She didn’t even notice? She had a great time in her beatnik outfit? I can stop crying now, because maybe I haven’t actually ruined her life? (Yet?)
I pulled myself together, embarrassed to have fallen apart over something so silly as a game of dress-up. I thought about leaving the gown for Maggie, but then took it back with me to the car, realizing that I needed it more than my little girl did. Was it really possible that my kid was turning out to be a secure, confident person, might think not worried about what others migof her? The kind of person who doesn’t even stop to think that she might be judged by what she’s wearing, or the color of her hair, or the way she likes to turn a waltz into a Doo Wop? The kind of person who is who she is, defined by her heart and her mind, and not her closet full of dress-up gowns?
I kinda think that’s what’s going on, and I’m pretty happy about it. Maybe she can give me a lesson or two, the next time we play dress-up.
Have you experienced a "bad mommy" moment? Have you been surprised by the outcome? Share in the comments!