The stomp of his feet as he clambers upstairs, whiny pitch to his voice as he exclaims: “Mommy, where my clothes?” His big sister is dressing and he’s beside himself. He wants to follow suit. Three years old, he can choose his clothes and dress himself, but an older sister trying to be helpful stifles his independence by doing it all for him.
When he was a toddler he writhed this way and that, twisting his torso with wild intention as I tried desperately to diaper and clothe him. I was surprised he was so particular about what clothes he wore. The shirt had to hang just so, the waist of the pants a specific elasticity, the fabric itself not too textured, not too rough.
Now we lay all the next day’s clothes out the night before in a green laundry basket. After bedtime bath, they each choose clothes for the following day. Sometimes an argument ensues: a sleeveless dress in the chill of winter, pants that have long been outgrown, a shirt already stained and dirty from wear earlier in the week. The compressed morning requires this evening ritual, whether mommy is working or not. I’m either tasked with getting the oldest out the door to before school care or hauling all three to morning drop off by the the elementary school bell at 7:55 a.m.
The baby is easy. No choice in the matter, she wears what I choose, what the nanny decides. On work days I arrive home, sometimes surprised at what the nanny has chosen, more or less layers than I would have picked out, leggings matched with a top I hadn’t considered. If I’m home for the day, often I’ll leave the baby in her pajamas; an easier non-choice for a harried mama of three.
After dressing, my eldest moves on to accessories. She carefully selects a headband, brushes her hair, the front part at least, to a gleam, considers her reflection in the mirror. She tries on a turquoise ring, takes it off. She adorns herself with a beaded necklace, or two. Sometimes she practices her ballet moves on the blue step stool in the bathroom, lifting a lithe leg, pointed toe, reaching up behind her like a flamingo’s pink neck, extending to the sky. The elegance and simplicity of the moment gives me pause before I rush her, rush us all, finally clothed, out the door.