A PAIR OF WHITE PANTS — hiphuggers with a button fly and boot cut — will hang in my closet untouched every summer for the next six years at least.
My youngest child turns 10 then, and that may be when mama dares to wear white pants again.
Much as I would love to slip into these white pants a few times between Memorial Day and the Labor Day — the official season — I keep them in the closet for the same reason I keep 99-cent dishes versus antique china in the Lazy Susan.
I don’t like feeling livid.
And that is exactly how I feel when, not five minutes after buttoning these pants, one of my three young sons tumbles into my lap with an uncapped purple marker or orange Popsicle dribble around his smile or dusty hands fresh from excavating behind the garage in the weed patch that I got too busy to plant in May as a vegetable garden.
Eight years into my parenting adventure, I finally value these white pants on a symbolic level and better understand why they are incompatible with the messy work of mothering.
Classic white summer clothing, be it a linen jacket or a tennis skirt, speaks to a season of staying cool and looking good in the heat. The color alone hints at a certain leisure, a certain expectation of remaining spotless.
Chef hats and doctor coats make notable exceptions.
But since I wear neither to work, I have no business wearing this color, especially when the whitewear sets me up to send a regrettable message to my little ones: “Stand back!”
I suspect most people have their own version of white pants that, upon reflection, can refine the questions we put to behaviors we hope to change.
Why, for instance, would I keep trying to wear something that predictably requires Spray ‘n Wash and just as predictably makes me fume at my children when they plow into my legs for a hug?
None of us can ignore all our pet irritations by wearing blue jeans instead.
But most of us can decide what matters more — something or someone — as a guide on how to get comfortable in the life we live.
Since I consider my children my magnum opus, the great work of my life, it helps to view them as I did on the day there were born — with delight — and to forget about fashion.
Wearing something else, like serving kids food on plastic plates, comes with its own satisfactions, after all.
Spills and breakage no longer create a crisis. They create space for grace. My work as a mother suddenly becomes lighter when I can get say “No problem” and mean it.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.746.0942.