Pat (my husband) and I worked different shifts for the first 14 years of our marriage so our children wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time in childcare. It worked out really well and one of the best side-effects of the arrangements is that all of our children have a special relationship with their dad because they spent so much time with him. They also learned early on that if I wouldn’t let them do something – they would just wait until they had dad alone the next day and ask him. This is not conjecture — they actually told me this was their plan – on multiple occasions! And usually it worked out well for them!
The other thing my children learned from their dad was his sense of fashion – or lack of, would be a better statement. This didn’t affect the boys too much, but it did cause a few problems with the girls – especially our oldest, Jenny. Becky was saved from this humility mainly because by the time she was ready to go to school, Jenny was around to stop Dad from repeating the same mistakes he had made with her. Pat had been raised with two brothers and I was raised with four sisters — so we were both just guessing when it came to the opposite sex (which I think is true of all parents!) – but at least boys don’t need to have their combed in the morning or have matching outfits – at least not usually. Boys are happy with jeans and a clean shirt. Girls are a little more picky — skirts, blouses, matching socks and combed hair — all a little too much for Pat.
One day I picked Jenny up from the babysitter and asked her how her day had been at kindergarten. Jenny explained to me that the teacher had made her change her clothes in the bathroom at school. When asked to why, she told me that the teacher had said that her clothes were not on right and she would help her fix them. Apparently, her dad thought that the shirt, which had a western yoke should be snapped in the back instead of the front – thus Jenny had her shirt on backwards. I asked Pat later how he thought any human being could snap a shirt up the back and he figured all clothes were meant for the parents to put on their children anyway — and he thought the shirt looked good!
This little fashion faux pas would probably not have caused much of a stir in our house if not for the answer Jenny gave her teacher concerning who helped her get ready for school in the morning. Jenny had answered, “No one. I have to do it all by myself because my daddy is asleep and my mommy is gone.” I waited every day for Child Protective Services to show up at my door wanting an explanation of how we were raising our children – as evidenced by the fact that we didn’t even know how to dress them in the morning!
Luckily, our guardian angels took pity on us and my husband’s lack of knowledge about fashion — and no one came knocking at our door — not even the fashion police! I learned to lay out Jenny’s clothes the night before and show Pat where the buttons and snaps should be! He never did quite master the hair-brushing – especially since Jenny had naturally curly hair and wouldn’t sit still for the whole ordeal! So — we let Jenny do that herself and blamed her hairstyle on the wind and how messy children get when they play.
The special little irony of this whole episode is that it probably shaped Jenny’s future – I don’t think she ever wanted to be accused of looking dorky again – and she became a cosmetologist – and she brushes her hair just fine now – and I’ve never seen her put her clothes on backwards!