My oldest daughter, 16, went to her third formal dance in her lifetime this evening. It just so happened it was our first entire formal experience as her parents- shopping for the dress, the shoes, pedicures at home, witnessing her getting ready, fixing her hair, pre-everyone pictures, her date arriving, and seeing her off…
My older sister, the second of us four kids – the gorgeous one – openly shared her memories with me via text tonight of formal dances from a blended daughter’s perspective in a father’s home with the Bonus Mom. This sharing started with a simple evening text from my seester, “Hows your day.” To which my three texts of replies held the message “I fixed her hair” with a few emojis and a pic of the hair curling being captured… we ooo’ed and ahhh’ed over my oldest baby, giggled about the nerves of the kids tonight, and began sharing our experiences of dances and all that entailed…
A Child’s Perspective… 24+ Years Ago
Tonight, after sending my oldest off, I was bold enough. I asked my sister, Faith, to share with me her memories. She is my first guest to quote (or paraphrase; she gets that). As our texts unfolded these last three hours, she explained, “I remember our Bonus Mom, June, working extra shifts, so I could get a beautiful dress with no worry. She would let Mom take me to get hair and make up done. Then, when I got home, June would help me get dressed. Then, she would prepare Dad for my reveal. She always made me feel so beautiful, important, and worth her time; no matter what else was going on… She would go with me to try on dresses. Sometimes her and Mom and me. It was always fun. When Dad would get protective, June was so wonderful about reminding Dad I was growing up and to trust me.” I asked her about her memories with us, her siblings… “Well, Matt was always there to scare my date… Until my Senior Prom because he was in the Marine Corps, so I went with a friend.” We laughed at the truth in having Marine brothers. She went on to share, “When it was picture time, Mom; our Bonus Dad, Louie; our baby brother, Ben; and you would come out to Dad’s for my pics. All four of our parents were so good about making whoever’s dance or party it was feel special by us all. I know I always felt like a princess. It made us all respect each other’s special times. Then, we appreciated our own even more. Does that make sense?” “YES!” I replied.
We rapid-fire-text-replied our memories of each other at dances, color of dresses to make sure we were on the same memory page, etc. It was awesome to step out of the Bonus Mom role and recall from our perspectives with her… I tend to recall on my own to stay grounded as I blend my family.
A Child’s Perspective… 22+ Years Ago
My memory of formal dances is consistent with all four of my personal dance experiences in high school. My Mom took me dress shopping – minding the price tag – or someone loaned me a dress, and I found a pair of fancy shoes to accent the dress or died a pair… either way, they were purchased at the same location if not borrowed. My nails and hair were professionally done. I did my makeup at home, usually with a girlfriend in tow at my house or theirs. My older sister popped-up somewhere along the way- hair place, nail place, my home, or the friend’s home… she always arrived before anyone else. All four of my parents would be present to take pics of me and my date before I headed off for the evening. This means they would either all be at my Mom’s home (since it was my primary residence) or whatever friend’s house we were meeting up at. I do not have any recollection of my parents arguing about where I got ready, who I was with, or where they would take a picture with me. My memory is simple- it was about me; the kid. But, I was the third of four… And, by then, they had the bigger picture figured out.
A Mom’s Perspective… Last Year
When a woman has a daughter, it seems obvious- she immediately feels the waves of apparent experiences to come: first everything- nail painting, best friend, not-so-best friend, haircut, makeup, period, best friend, crush, boyfriend, breakup, dance & all that entails, boyfriends again, engagement, egagement dinner, wedding shower, wedding, baby shower, baby … and, we hope in that order… but, let’s stop at dance…
When the sonographer told me my first born was a girl, I cried… buckets. For many reasons. I also found peace in knowing I would be there to hold her little hand through it all: After all, I am the Momma Bear, and I will not miss anything… Until I inevitably, uncontrollably did, because of a broken home – and will continue to – and, I have to accept that.
This lil burst of sunshine has many posts to come… After all, she was the first to inspire me to be better.
Fast forward to first dance… I will spare the details of the weeks prior to the dance of the discussion of going with a date, with a friend, with the friend cancelling, and the next friend cancelling, (ugh! middle school girls are sooooooo mean), and ultimately, a family best friend, no, a genuine cousin jumping in to go with, excitement ensuing, details being planned…. and, pull. the. Momma breaks… I am heading to the hospital to have my fourth daughter… an emergency c-section at that… I miss my seventh grader’s end-of-year theater play… and, her first formal dress shopping experience. I look at my husband and tell him I have sent a group text to my Momma, my sister, his Momma, his sister, and our sister-n-law married to his twin to see if one – or all – can take her dress shopping. His face. His handsome face… It was priceless. And, heartbreaking. He was offended. Why on earth would I ask anyone else before him was his basic response. My heart exploded, and melted, at the same time. I fell in love with him all over again. And, I fumbled for an apology. I fumbled again for another apology when he simply said, “I am not most guys. I will take her. Text them all and tell them I will handle it.” OHHHHhhhh Myyyyyy Geeerrrrrrrsh! I would have jumped out of that king-sized bed if I could have and wrapped my entire body around him in a humongous hug. But, I could barely move. And, I was holding a precious infant. My husband took his bonus child formal dress shopping for her first time. He sent me texts. He sent me pics. They text me pics of shoes… Converse shoes… My girl was wearing converse for her first formal… Melting heart again! So, yeah. I missed my first born’s first formal dress shopping… and I would miss it again for that to happen. My daughter shared in a moment with a gentle, selfless, loving Bonus Dad. She felt worth it. My husband is a damn good man.
The night of the dance… Well, the school sent out a rule that only in-district kids could attend after our out-of-district cousin bought her dress. They did not respond to us until a bit before two hours before the dance the cousin could not attend. I had just checked my daughter out of school early. Our niece was at our house already. We decided to cancel the hair appointments. We accepted the reality and appropriate response to the unfortunate circumstance. My daughter missed her first formal dance… We boycotted the dance, and the girls attended big sister’s play… all dressed up. I had the joy of helping them get ready, curling their hair as if they were going to the dance, taking pictures of them, and seeing them all off… yeah, I missed my oldest’s theater play that night, too… c-section & infants just don’t mix. Luckily, we are raising understanding young women.
A Bonus Mom’s Perspective… Tonight
Our oldest. She is worth a multitude of posts.
She began hinting at Winter Formal a few weeks before Cotillion last month. This winter break we had her with us for 10 days; a first. She requested we take her dress shopping since this would be her third formal, and we have not experienced them with her yet. Ummm… heck yeah! Off we went. It was bittersweet. I was dress shopping for a formal event for the first time as a parent, and it was not for my first born. My heart softened at how Godwinked this event. My husband took my firstborn eight months prior, and I was taking his. We took ours. She and I got into our groove searching through the racks. I was uncovering her taste for this dance. She was beginning to trust I was capable, “you’re good at this,” she said. I smiled and simply said, “I try,” shocked I hadn’t text my Angel Squad girlfriends for help. As the day unfolded and I chased our youngest baby – 8 months now – around the dress shop, I had an idea, “Hey! What do you think about us picking the top two and leaving them on hold? You can come back with Dad to pick the best one.” “Yeah, I like that idea. He can be apart of it, too,” as she smirked her smile and squinted her eyes like the Daddy’s girl she is. I quietly text her Daddy back, “what do you think of coming here tonight to pick the dress from her top two before your Daddy-daughter dinner date?” (These are the moments that soften my other two daughters being away on adventures with their Dad.) We leave two dresses with Brandy, the dress clerk, and head to the mall for shoes. We spend about an hour looking at and trying on shoes to locate a pair that will work for either dress. Once the dress stress is over, we hit the mall for more relaxed purchases. When I got the text-pic later that evening from Dad of our oldest in the dress they picked, I said a lil prayer thanking God for blessing our girls with such a wonderful man. They shared an evening just for them after the dress was selected. With her being 16, those evenings will grow less and less. At least she has the foundation of the nights with her Dad to set the tone for her future. I just pray she finds a man like her Daddy.
Yeah… I got off-track there… I am supposed to be blogging about tonight… But, tonight would not have happened without that Daddy-Daughter night. Tonight, our girl arrived home after an all-day theater rehearsal. I was quite nervous. This was the. for. real. first. formal. dance. experience. for. our. home. She was quite chill. My husband was quite annoyed with my nerves. I found myself busy close to the teenagers’ wing of the house waiting for her to need me. I didn’t even start dinner because I feared the garlic and onion the recipe called for might get in her hair off my fingertips because I knew I was going to be helping with hair. I kept finding a reason to knock on the bathroom door to check on her. The time came- hair. We moved to my master bath. I curled her hair… four layers of hair. My oldest joined us. She took pics of us three. My husband came in with the baby. We all laughed. We sprayed hairspray. Lots of hairspray. We recurled. We pinned bobby pins. We oooohhhhed and ahhhhed at her beauty. I pulled out the first pair of earrings her Daddy bought me. She refused due to nerves. I insisted I trusted her and ensured her of her worth to wear them first, “it’s only appropriate the oldest wears them first,” looking in the mirror at my first born and winking to which she smiled and shook her head yes to her big sister. She was gorgeous!!!
We moved into the living room to present the final product. Dad said, “Whoa.” Followed by, “wow,” soft and taken aback by her beauty as he saw her finally pieced together. We all moved to the front room. I had spent the day removing any lingering Christmas décor and remnants of moving in anticipating evening pics to come. She posed. I captured. She held the baby. I captured. She stood with Dad. I captured. The girls engulfed her. I captured. The texts came in to her phone. Her date was arriving. I realized the difference these kids are growing up in… nights like these entail constant communication for them… When we were kids we just knew they would arrive at whatever time they said they would… Her date approached the door… Dad insisted I get a picture with her… We posed, and my oldest captured. Ummm… I look really proud in that pic. LOL!
We met parents. We witnessed nervous kids. Gorgeous kids. But, nervous. So, the female parents spoke without speaking to ease the nerves while the Dads talked shop. We had them pose the old-school prom poses to bring the laughter. We laughed. We all laughed. They were kids. We were parents. It. Was. Beautiful. As they all were walking away, I brushed my hand down her arm and said, “I love you. Have fun.” “I love you, too. Ok. I will.” And, off they went.
As I prepped, poached, sautéed, boiled, & folded the Chicken Gnocchi Italian Soup after she left, this third blog post was mentally being prepared as well. Cooking for my family brings me comfort with every step of blended life we experience. Mom, Bonus Mom, Dad, and Bonus Dad…You will have a role for the formal. It may or may not be what you anticipate. Best advice I can offer… keep your mind open, your heart willing, and your arms ready. Because, after all, it’s about the kids. The gorgeous kids.
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