Dec 20, 2014

Picking Your Battles............

Being a mother is not for the faint of heart.  It's a job that does not come with weekends, days off, or vacation.  It's a job that calls for decisions that are often deemed heartless by one's own offspring.  Sometimes you just have to stand your ground and wait for enough time to pass that they see the reasoning behind your "heartlessness" and thank you for it.  It's a tricky dance to ensure that your child is well taken care of, healthy, and happy.
In fact, happy is usually the hardest part. You spend a lot of time second guessing yourself, and sometimes it takes years before you know you did, or did not do, the right thing.
What makes our children happy sometimes breaks our hearts, scares us to death, enrages us, and can even drive us to despair.
Don't get worried, I am just talking about a shirt.  You would not think that just a shirt could put anyone through such anguish, unless you were a mother.
All my children had blankies as babies that gradually fell apart by the time the children were about 3.
I saved these blankies faithfully, even when there were only shreds of them left.
I felt it was the right thing to do.
Now, I know it was the right thing to do.  If you have ever seen your child's face light up when they see a long lost "friend" such as this, you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't yet seen this, save the crap they love, even if it's gross.  Just do the best you can.  They can throw it away if they want.  It's theirs to throw, all in good time.
How could I throw away something my babies loved?
Throw away part of their security?  NEVER!
I carefully saved and packed away those blankies, or what was left of them, packed in plastic bags so that no bugs, no mold, no bad smells, would desecrate what meant so much to my children.
Lately, however, this particular battle has come back around to haunt me.
I offer the prosecution's exhibit 1.

I don't think this picture does justice to how bad of a shape this poor sweatshirt is in.
It used to be white.
It came into my youngest babies life when he was in 7th grade.
He wore it MUCH.
That was 5 years ago.
It's been through a lot with him.
Possibly the most important years of his life.
I have wrestled with getting rid of it for at least 3 years now.
He loves this sweatshirt as much as he loved his blankie when he was small.

Here is another shot against an off-white washing machine.
It certainly was worth whatever money I spent on it, I must admit.
Especially considering I undoubtedly bought it at a garage sale or a second hand shop.
It's lost it's shape.  It's a dingy gray now, no matter how much I bleach it, add baking soda to the laundry.
Oxiclean has no effect.
I've tried everything except dying it.
I draw the line here because 1) It might upset his delicate emotional balance as it relates to this shirt, and 2) I usually make a terrible mess of things like that and would probably end up with odd splotches of color for months on good clothes.
Believe me, it would happen.
It's lost it's shape.
It's cuffs are torn and tattered.
It hangs on him like a rag.
It has been a really good shirt.  Hollister, my hat is off to you.  Salute!
People might well think it has survived a terrible fire, barely.
I could not blame them for drawing this conclusion, but they would be wrong.
I would feel better if it had survived a terrible fire.
At least that would be a reasonable explanation.

It is getting too embarrassing for me to allow him to wear it anymore.
Can you see my point here?
I mean, I know he loves this shirt.
He has worn it without interruption except for the one time I tried to throw it away, about 2 years ago.
He found it in the trash and told me in no uncertain terms that it was his favorite sweatshirt and he could not live without it.
Could. Not. LIVE.
He felt betrayed that I had thrown it away.
I felt terrible.  I had betrayed him by throwing it away.  I was a bad mom!
But not as terrible as I did when he wore it to school..........
"What must people think of me?" I wondered.  The ego never dies, even if all you have left that you really care about is your laundry skills.  Menopause, the great apathetic state that can be soothing at times.
So when we moved I did not have the heart to throw it away again.
I saw it in the laundry the first week we were here.
 I lobbed that sucker up on top of a pile of cleaning rags in the laundry room.
I had peace of mind for about 2 weeks.
2 weeks that my poor Youngest Baby was frantic looking for his favorite sweatshirt.
He finally decided he had lost it in the move.  Or so I thought.
I thought I had won that battle.  
I consoled myself with the knowledge that I could give it back to him after he had acclimated himself to wearing the many good, warm, unstained, untorn sweatshirts that he has.  In his closet.  Anxiously waiting their turn to get to be worn.
They deserve a turn!!
It is a testament to either his love for this damn thing or just his stubborn, single-minded devotion to all things HIS that he looked until he found it.
I can assure you, he has never surveyed the rag pile before.
I had not won that battle.
I am such a fool.

So tonight, when I found it in the laundry again, (Drat!  Foiled again!) I said
"Youngest Baby?  This sweatshirt........I don't care if you keep it, but could you not wear it anymore?"
This brought a hearty round of laughter from the boys around my kitchen table playing the Magic game.
(The Magic game is some kind of game played with cards.....probably just as bad as video games but not video games, which puts me on the side of the Magic game.)
My Youngest Baby looked hurt.  My heart broke a little more.
His friends said they knew which shirt I spoke of.
They said he wore it to school.  My face got red.
I said it looked like orphan's rags.
He said that shirt had been through a lot with him.
I said I understood.
But then I begged him not to wear it in public anymore.
It's a work shirt, I said.
It's a perfect shirt to work on the car, or burn leaves, I said.
"If I can find another shirt exactly like it?  Would you quit wearing it then?"  I bargained.
He agreed to that.
So now I have a mission.  Possibly an impossible one.
I don't want my Youngest Baby to be unhappy.
I also cannot stand the embarrassment of him wearing this shirt in public ever again.
But I do not have the heart to make that happen because it would hurt him too much.
For whatever reason, this shirt has taught me a lesson.
I am not nearly as tough as I like to pretend.
Oh, I can talk the talk.
I can talk it all day long.
In fact, I am pretty convincing.
But my babies are just as sentimental as I am, and I am proud of that.
In the end, embarrassed as I am that people either think I'm so poor my children have to wear the same clothes endlessly for 5 years at a time, or that I never wash their clothes (which of those 2 things are worse, exactly???) I am a big, old, push over.
At least when it comes to my babies and the things (disgusting as they may sometimes be) that mean a lot to them.
I am not heartless, and this is a good thing.
But do you think people know that?  Or do they just think I'm filthy?
Does this really matter?
All that matters is that I have finally found a way to compromise.
My youngest baby gets to keep the shirt.
In fact, I may frame it.
At least that way he won't wear it anymore.
What's a mother to do when her child's heart is involved?
It's just a shirt.  What's left of a shirt.
Much more bleach and it will surely disintegrate, right?  But that would kill him.
I guess I will look for a frame, and another sweatshirt just like it.