Thursday, 7 February 2008

The great clothing fight

It is the day of the ice-skating lesson, and we are all getting ready to go. Tiger and Shark are in the car, quietly compliant, so something must go wrong yet. And it does. Squirrel comes downstairs dressed in her Barbie denim skirt with the loveheart pockets. The same skirt she wore for the horseriding lesson.

Now this Barbie skirt, (age 6-7) no longer allows leg circulating space sufficient to walk down the road properly, let alone sit astride a horse. Or ice skate, for I presume ice skating will require the pushing of one leg in front of the other. But in this offcut cloth of a thing that Squirrel wears, I may as well bandage her knees together and see how well she copes with that.

When I see the Barbie skirt descending the stairs, gingerly, its owner clinging onto the bannister, my heart sinks, because I know I am already guilty. I should, like a good and dutiful mother, have tip-toed to Squirrel's clothing store while she was occupied making a model dinosaur or trashing the bathroom, and I should have discreetly weeded away that offending circlet of Barbie denim with its loveheart pockets and its pointless pink frill. I should have then silently taken the rag outside, disposed of it swiftly by means of the scissors, and buried the remains. Mercy killing in this instance would not have been a hard thing to do. But I did not do these things. And now I am culpable by omission. I am a bad, neglectful mother.

And it gets worse. Because underneath the Barbie skirt with the loveheart pockets Squirrel is wearing two pairs of woolly tights. Not one pair, note, but two.

Now one pair of woolly tights on Squirrel eases themselves off her bum and down around her knees quicker than I can get to the Co-op. I know this to be true, because fifteen paces down the back lane there is Squirrel, dancing beside me, not holding my hand. At every third step she skips and grabs with both hands the elastic band of her leggings to hoist them back over her bum. Shortly we are dancing in time down the road; we need no music, just the rhythmic skip of one-two hoist up! one-two hoist up! one-two hoist up! And this, remember, is with one pair of leggings. I have never studied the coefficient of two pairs of leggings, one upon the other, in downshift drop, nor the velocity and direction with which two pairs of leggings can travel while on ice. In my rough estimation, and one glance, I estimate they could both be round her ankles before she reaches the front door.

At this point, mother to daughter eyes meet and I do not need words. 'What is it now?' Squirrel drawls out exaggerated syllables, facing me down with a cold hard stare and a fixed mouth, leaning over the bannister as if she were aged thirteen and I had caught of whiff of suspicious breath.

Dilemma. Do I reason, 'Now look here Squirrel, I really think you ought to reconsider what you are wearing and ask yourself 'Is this suitable for the ice?'' Or do I say 'Can you go upstairs and change because I think that outfit is not suitable. First of all you cannot slide in that skirt. And second, you will show your bum to everyone when you fall on it.' The first option is the one I would like to say if I think about it. The second is the one I do say when I don't think.

So I say the second.

Cue: hysterical wailing on the stairs, dramatic sinking to the treads, the clutching of the wooden banister, apparently now the only emotional support ever to have been offered in this damned House of Usher. Now I am not only culpable, I am stealing my daughter's independence away from her and probably emotionally torturing her for good measure. Because I say, matter of factly, 'Squirrel. I do not want you to wear that skirt and leggings combination for two reasons. First because I think it is too exposing. If your leggings fall down I will feel humiliated, and that's that. Second, it is not practical and you cannot skate in it.'

Squirrel wails some more. I hold out. I say the instructor will send you off the ice. I point my finger. I make the hoisting gesture. I put my hands on my hips. I say I am protecting you. And I am protecting me. I say what would people think of me if I let you slide around in minus 5 degrees with a baboon's bum following you? What will happen then? Where are the police? Shall I call Social Services now and get it over with?

And, by degrees, I get my way. Squirrel turns and flees up the stairs, screaming. And changes into another, wider skirt with footless leggings that are securely elasticated and modestly proportioned.

Of course her spirit is probably crushed, or seething quietly, dark and dangerously waiting until she is aged sixteen and can get unsupervised into Top Shop. And then I will have my comeuppance, and she her revenge.

Meanwhile, the Barbie skirt is under the frog pond.


Angela said...

Oh... after having three boys I am really having a time with my own daughter's sense of fashion. Kudos to you for standing your ground! (And sympathy to you, because I am so practiced in the meltdowns that follow!)

Brad said...

OH! the drama! You have a budding troupe of thespians there. Time to brush up on your stage-mother skills - me thinks.

Lynn said...

You made me laugh out loud at your description of the dancing in tights and I had a mouthful of tea at the time, not a pretty sight!

Gill said...

Oh is that what we're meant to do with those kinds of skirts! *Gets spade and scissors*