I spent hours today trying to find black pants for Erin. Hours, because they couldn’t be black jeans, black leggings or black khakis. They had to be black “dress” pants that “cover the ankles.” Then we had to find a plain black headband, and plain black, closed toed shoes. No sparkles or buckles or straps. Plain, black shoes.

Sounds simple enough. In theory. But have you shopped for a tween girl lately? Nothing is plain, and junior high girls don’t often need black dress pants. Mine does, because she plays in the school orchestra and the teacher has imposed a dress code for performances. The same teacher who, when my oldest played violin in her orchestra, showed up to conduct the Fall concert not in black pants but dressed as a witch, complete with prosthetic nose, gown, pointy hat, and purple hair.  The same teacher who, at parent teacher conferences last month, handed me a print out of Erin’s grades, discussed it line by line with me, then sent it home with me only to tell Erin the following week that unless I signed it and sent it back, her grade would get docked.

But I digress. Double standards and inefficiency do that to me.

When Adam came home that year and told me that unless we went and purchased brand new black dress shoes–because the black tennis shoes he was wearing had been deemed unacceptable by said teacher–his grade would be docked, I went a little nuts. I called to the principal and told her that the teacher had no business making any student’s grades dependent on whether or not his mother could or couldn’t afford new shoes that week.

The principal agreed, he wore his black tennis shoes for the concert, and the world didn’t end. I didn’t even hear anyone gasp in horror when they caught a glimpse of his obviously sub-par footwear in the back row.

But now we’re doing this again, seven years later. I was annoyed today while we were shopping, and when Erin said ‘I can’t have sparkles on the shoes or my grade gets docked,’ I muttered under my breath that I just might need to have another conversation with this teacher. I told Erin that it’s fundamentally ridiculous that a grade would be based on something like the sparkle factor of someone’s shoes, and my sweet girl nodded as I talked. Then she said something that broke my heart:

“I know you’re mad, mom, and you could call and tell her that. But she kind of likes me right now, and I don’t want to her to be mad at me because you’re mad at her. So can we just keep looking? Please?”

So I bit my tongue and found her what she needed, and even though I’m still fuming that a  teacher would dock a student’s grade for not purchasing a certain shoe or pair of pants, I’m also acutely aware that my mouth and my temper just might affect my kiddos in ways I don’t intend.

We did, however, buy black trouser socks with a subtle diamond pattern. Because that’s how I roll.

The better part of Sunday--reading and hot chocolate time.

The better part of Sunday–reading and hot chocolate time.

P.S. If you need plain black pants, plain black shoes and a plain black headband, you can find them at JC Penney, Payless and Icing, respectively.

I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, and blogging everyday in November.