I paused in the hallway the other day to look at those eight year old photos, at a time when we had just two children. I commented to Sam that I barely remember what it was like to have Ben and Abby alone. His reply? "They always looked good."
And he was right. They didn't go anywhere without matching outfits, brushed and styled hair, and new shoes. Even their "play clothes" were unblemished - with nary a stain or hole or mysteriously faded spot. They wore bibs at every meal. Their diaper bags were always stocked for any emergency that might arise with spare clothes that matched each other and actually fit.
With five kids, I'm usually brushing hair and putting shoes on (hopefully two of them, but not always) after we arrive at our destination. The best hair style I can pull off is a ponytail. Matching bows? Maybe on Sunday morning. Otherwise, forget it. Their clothes are often well-worn and holey. Most of the outfits I see Abby wearing in those old pictures on the walls have now clothed two little sisters. Ben is growing at such a rapid rate that I'm going to start looking in Sam's closet for hand-me-downs because that sounds way easier than actually shopping.
We aren't picture perfect anymore.
But you know what?
It's more than okay. It's real life. Let me tell you how much Ben and Abby cared about winning the titles of Best Hair and Best Dressed.
We did that for us.
Am I scoffing at well-dressed kids? Absolutely not. In fact, I would definitely prefer that we not show up most places looking like feral cats. But as I mentioned in my last post, I have learned to relax a little. The earth won't come to a screeching halt if I let the girls pick out their own outfits. It's going to be alright if Ben roams the neighborhood looking like an 80 year old man in two different patterns. (Hey, my grandfather got away with it.) And poor Noah. He's just lucky if he has pants on when we get out in public.
This might not work for everyone - this whole "relax" technique. But I do think there's an important lesson here.
It's okay to reevaluate what's important from time to time. I assure you my kids won't remember if they matched each other and what their hair looked like (well, maybe Abby will, but that's why she's learning to do it herself). I can also assure you that whether their hair is crazy and their clothes are mismatched, what matters is that they remember their childhood fondly. That they know they are loved. That they live life to the fullest. They get messy. They have fun.
I contend that they do..