First Day of School, School Uniforms, and Social Lessons from Kindergarteners

school uniforms, equality, first day of school

Today was the first day of school. Yay for them, sad face for mom. Seriously, it was so quiet in here, you’d think I’d be ecstatic, but actually I felt terribly alone. But enough about me. Let’s talk about the first day of school and things that hit me like a ton of bricks today, shall we? Well, since we’re talking about things that hit me like a ton of bricks, I guess we (really just me) are still talking about me, right? It is what it is.

The babies had a great first day, mostly. Bug enjoyed every minute of it and Bubby enjoyed the first half. Apparently the second half was really boring involving sitting on a rug and stuff. Turns out, the “stuff” was music class and it’s apparently not his favorite part of the day. He had fun, he’s making friends, and I’m incredibly proud of him.

Now, on to what “hit” me. My kids are just fine without me. In fact, they flourish. That’s a good thing, really, but it’s somewhat hurtful in a way. I need them, I know they need me, but they do very well without me. Proud, but bitter sweet.

But aside from the emotional issues of the day, I decided I wanted to talk about something political. Uniforms and equality. If you know me at all, you know that I stay FAR away from discussions of politics, race, or religion. These are hot topics and I don’t like confrontation or debate. That’s not to say that I don’t have strong views, it’s just to say that I don’t like to argue or upset others. So I shut up. I mumble to myself, I have my opinions, but I keep them closed within me, because that’s how I was raised. Today, I break that mold.

My kids’ first day of school pictures will look exactly like their last day of school pictures because my children will be wearing the exact same clothes on the first day as they do on the last. Yes, school uniforms. Although I do hate the blandness of it all, I actually totally appreciate it. Not for my kids really, but for some of the others.

We “have”, others in my area do not. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact of life. I was raised with money. A blonde haired, blue eyed, “white” girl with money. Then I raised 2 little girls as a single mom. We didn’t have shit. They were lucky to have Walmart clothes for school. The playing field wasn’t equal for them, but they made do and they did well because they had the charm and charisma to pull it off. That had nothing to do with social stature, race, or anything really, other than themselves. I was proud but I wanted more for them.

Kindergarten, equality, equal rights

Today, as I sent my babies to school, as I dropped them off in their classes, I looked around. All of the kids looked the same. White, black, brown, yellow…the same. Why? Because they were all wearing red or white polo shirts with khaki shorts, skorts, skirts, or pants. No one stood out. No one stood in the shadows. Equal. There was no hatred. There was no racism, no talk of socio-economic differences. And they giggled, laughed, and conversed as equals. Because they should. Because they are. One child’s family might have more money than another. One child’s skin might dictate how society treats them. But in that classroom, in those same uniforms, they are equal and in that, I find hope for this world.

I see a lot of bad things daily on the internet, on social media, but today I saw peace. I felt peace. If everyone saw the world through the eyes of a child, if we all wore uniforms, this world would be a better place. Please don’t think I’m insinuating that racism doesn’t exist. It does and it breaks my heart and every fiber of my being on a daily basis. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t exist in Kindergarten. Hatred is learned and thankfully, these babies haven’t learned to hate yet. I hope they never will.

Zach Kindergarten

I watched my son this morning and I was proud. I was proud of the lessons I’ve taught him and I was proud that he doesn’t see color or social stature. He sees people, he sees friends. We’d all be better people, we’d be a better society, if we’d all take a moment to revisit Kindergarten. There are no barriers there. No learned hatred. No discrimination. Just love, uniforms, and equality. It’s a beautiful thing. I witnessed pure beauty and I loved it!

I’m not writing this for a political debate. I’m not writing this to hear how much better I have it than others (I know that I have it better than some, worse than others). I’m writing this to point out that children (and schools with uniforms) are so much better than our society as a whole. Being unique is flippin awesome, but some uniformity, some conformity, is pretty awesome too. Let us all learn from our children. They don’t see the walls that we, as adults, sometimes build. Why should they? They shouldn’t exist. They don’t see socio-economic standing. They don’t care. They see someone that looks just like them. In a uniform. They see friends…all around them. And they are so much more brilliant than we are. Let’s don’t teach them to hate. Ever.

If my kids never get out of uniforms, if they never see the hatred that society has created, I’ll be OK with that. I hope they always continue to see everyone the same way they see themselves when they look in the mirror. That’s the way it should be and I’m glad my babies see it that way. It’s time to stop the hatred. Hopefully these kids, our future, will finally make the change and this world will be a better place. It will be as wonderful as Kindergarten where the only talk of color that matters is in the Crayola box and all of the beautiful drawings they can create with those colors…together.

Daddies, don’t tell your daughter she’s pretty. Period.

Growing up, my dad always introduced me as the pretty one. Period.

EPSON scanner image

The Thompsons 1970 – L to R: Christy, Vicki, Cathy, Elsie (mom), and Ron (dad)

My sisters were pretty, but they had other attributes he chose to point out when introducing them to friends and business colleagues.

Meet my oldest daughter, Cathy. She’s so sharp. She’ll be an architect, an accountant, or a lawyer some day.

Meet Vicki, my middle daughter. She’s a natural born leader and very intelligent. She’ll be a teacher and make a difference in this world when she grows up.

Meet Christy, my baby, she’s so pretty. Period.

That’s all I ever got. Pretty. Period. It stuck with me my whole life and that label, that concept, has probably, in some way, been transferred into the minds of my own girls. Period.

Pal-Mac Varsity Football Cheerleaders - Look Ma, I'm up top - no hands - aren't I pretty?

Pal-Mac Varsity Football Cheerleaders – Look Ma, I’m up top – no hands – aren’t I pretty?

My whole life, I’ve been consumed with “pretty”. I was afforded all of my opportunities because I was pretty. Period. There could be no other answer. In high school, I made the cheerleading squad. I was captain in fact. It was obviously because I was pretty. Period.

I got good grades in high school and college. I’m sure it was because I was pretty. Period. Pretty people always get everything handed to them. Period.

Milliken Associate of the Year 1996.jpg

In my 20s, I got jobs, when there were countless applicants, because I was pretty. I wasn’t the smart one. I certainly wasn’t cut out to change the world. I was just pretty. Period. And people admired that and they gave me all of the opportunities I was afforded because of that. Period.

Surely, I never got anything based on my merits. I couldn’t. I was pretty. Period.

I’m pretty, I’m thin, I’m nice, and GOSH DARN IT…people like me. That’s my life’s platform. I’m afraid that’s what I instilled in my girls. Because…pretty. Period. That thin thing often brings up talk of  Body Dysmorphic Disorder amongst my pretty (not-so-period) friends. I’m taken aback, but I get it. 

My oldest daughter is thin as a rail, and she’s pretty. My second daughter is struggling with her weight since the birth of her daughter, but by God, she’s pretty. My 7-year-old daughter is basically a stick, but she talks about the fat content in her food despite my constant insistence that she allows me to “worry” about her health while she just enjoys her youth. It’s not pretty. Period.

my babies

You see, I don’t want her, or any of them, to worry or stress like I did. My dad, my high school boyfriend (4 long years), and my 1st husband (10 long years) reminded me how important it was that I was thin and pretty. Period. That lead me to years of binging and purging, anorexia and bulimia, that not many people know about. But I was pretty! Period.

It’s a life-long lineage that stemmed from the fact that my dad said I was pretty. Period. Constantly.

As I look back on my life now, at all of my accomplishments, at all of the jobs I’ve secured, at the financially-secure place I am at now, I realize that it wasn’t “pretty” that got me here. Period. Sure, I might have gotten my foot in the door when I was 20 because I was “prettier” than another candidate, but it wasn’t because I was pretty. Period. I got those jobs, those opportunities, because I was pretty intelligent, pretty charming, pretty entertaining, pretty convincing, pretty funny, and pretty damned amazing. Period.

I’m 47 now and “pretty” doesn’t get me far in life anymore. I get me far in life. I always have. Period. The inside of me is so much more powerful than “pretty” and that’s what I want to pass on to my daughters. Even though I’m sagging, my abs will never be what they once were, I’m still pretty. Period.

So, a message to my dad, and to all of the dads (and moms) out there, please don’t just continue to tell your daughters they’re pretty. Period. Don’t ever end pretty with that period. Instead, say, hey baby, you’re pretty amazing. You’re pretty intelligent. You’re a pretty good reader. You’re pretty intuitive. You’re a pretty great family member, friend, and an all around great person. In fact, you’re pretty good at EVERYTHING you do. Period.

Serve your daughters well. We struggle with pretty enough. Please don’t make us think that is the be all and end all of life. We won’t stay pretty, young, and thin forever. We just can’t. Period.

And I’ve finally accepted, despite what I’ve heard my whole life, that I’m pretty freaking amazing. Not just pretty. Period.

On Being a Mom of “Advanced Maternal Age”

this is advanced maternal age

People often ask me what it’s like to be an “old” mom. They don’t say it like that, but that’s what they mean. They say things like, “How does it feel to have young children in your forties?” or “How do you deal with little kids at YOUR age?”. Those kinds of things.

I say I feel blessed. Let me explain.

You see, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I was a young parent (not as young as a lot of my southern cohorts, but young by my standards). I was barely 22 when I had my first minion. She was gorgeous. She was perfect. I wasn’t ready for her, financially or emotionally. I loved her with all of my heart and soul, but we struggled and I wasn’t in a strong relationship. I was a kid. Then number two came along, not planned, and I wasn’t ready, at the age of 27.

Note the absence of a Daddy in this family photo. They had one, the same one, but he was never present.

1994: Note the absence of a Daddy in this family photo. They had one, the same one, but he was never present.

We muddled through. We were happy. We survived 2 marriages (my fault, not theirs) and a lot of macaroni and cheese…together. It wasn’t always fun. But I wasn’t ready for them. Financially, as most young parents (not all, and I won’t generalize, plus kudos to those of you who are) aren’t. I just wasn’t ready. Putting food on the table was my focus. We didn’t do a lot of fun stuff. When we did, I sacrificed healthy meals for macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. It was a trade off.

Luckily for me (us), their birthdays were both in the summer. That meant they got clothes for their birthdays from relatives, then clothes for Christmas from their relatives. Yes, I had their wardrobes covered. And their toys. I guess I planned that part well at least. Although, none of that was the plan. But my goodness, I loved those girls, obviously I still do, and wanted more for them. I wanted to provide them with more. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t ready.

Gossett Family 2008

And then I was presented with the opportunity, when I was ready, to have children at an “advanced maternal age” with my current husband. I wondered, I worried. Would I be here for them when they were grown? Would I see them grow? Could I, would I, be able to do this at 39, and then 41? You bet your ass I was ready this time, and it’s so much easier this go round. I actually highly recommend being a parent of “advanced maternal age”. I was ready. And you know what? My babies don’t want for crap. They have all they need and then some.

I’m here. I’m present. And I don’t have to stress the small stuff anymore. Well, other than them, because they’re still small, and I stress their little happiness. It’s awesome being a mom of “advanced maternal age”. It’s great being financially stable and knowing that when I want to take them on an adventure, I can, without worrying about the unhealthy meals I’ll have to feed them for a MONTH to make up for the financial sacrifice of fun.

So, if you ask me what it’s like to be an “old mom”, I have to say, it’s AWESOME. I was ready for these babies. And I’m still young enough to handle the daily life of parenthood. Parenting in your 40s is like grandparenting on steroids. You get to spoil them, you can afford it, and you get to keep them full time. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like this in the whole world!

If you’re of “advanced maternal age” and wondering if you should take the plunge, DO IT! There’s nothing quite like this. I’m just amazed by the beauty of my world every day. Although I still worry if I’ll be around to see their milestones, I’m thankful that these babies have graced my life, and that I’m at a point in my life where they don’t have to need, or want, for anything.

So, yes, I’m happy to be an “old mom”, just in case you wanted to ask!