Friday, March 11, 2005

Orange Pants

As promised...

This needs to be prefaced with an event that look place last October. I took refuge, which means I formalized my "conversion" to Buddhism. This is ripe for conversation, but if I start, I will take one of those "shortcuts" that end up adding an hour to the trip. It has been an interesting struggle interpreting what I have learned into my parenting. There seems to be a intraversable chasm between cushion time and being with the kids. It's been an effort to bring those two experiences together (the inseperability of samsara and nirvana?)

Before Buddhism there were parenting treatises. Like any normal mother, I read a number of "manuals" after Owen (7) was born. I read the What to Expect series, Dr. Sears, Dr. Spock, even Dr Ferber. I tended to use what worked and discard what irked and eventually found my ground and some confidence. I discovered one recurring maxim, present on all sides of the parenting continuum: "Choose your Battles Wisely". This is about Harry (5), the orange pants, choosing my battles, and trying to be a Buddhist. One last complaint: I hate war metaphors in parenting discussions!!

Over the past few months, Harry developed a fondness for a pair of Orange pants. I am a fashionista and have weilded a certain amount of stylistic control over my boys. Owen was a willing participant and has learned the Zen of coordination. His style falls somewhere between neopreppie and ruggedly casual. Meanwhile, Harry grew attached to the Orange pants. They are nice pants - a soft brushed chino, lined on the inside with grey cotton. But they are orange. Not saffron orange, or a soft yellowy orange, or hunter orange, or pumpkin or even orange orange. They have the same tone and intensity as the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. Its not a hint of orange -they bellow orange.

My initial problem with the orange pants was the lack of coordinating shirts. Moreover, Harry was becoming less and less open to new articles of clothing, and somehow developed an aversion to anything that was slightly to big, and to anything that fit. This meant he had a dwindling collection of smallish shirts, none of which "matched" the orange pants. Matching is a relative term of course. Remember, I am the mommy, and therefore I set the fashion agenda around here.

Harry attends preschool, and *I * have a reputation to uphold, right? I can't send him to school in Orange Pants with a green and red stripped top...for the fourth day in a row...what will people think? Maybe someone will think I do not love him, buy him new clothes, or think I don't do laundry...or worse...cite me for neglect. There is a silver lining to this situation. Harry never wears dirty orange pants. We are so fortunate to own 2 of the same pair (one was a gift, the other a cousin hand-me-down).

After some soul searching, I banned the orange pants to weekend wear. Thus ensued a great deal of tears and tantrums before school. I had a flash of realization "Wear the orange pants! Please!" We are on day 12 of consecutive orange pants wear. A learned a practical buddhist lesson in the four noble truths:

  • Life is suffering. Indeed! It's painful for me to allow this attachment to Orange pants and its painful for Harry not to wear them.
  • Suffering has an origin: The Orange Pants! The existential reality of those General Lee coloured chinos. I am attached to my stylistic dogmas and Harry to his pants.
  • Suffering has an end: Mommy chills out and realizes that Orange pants are the least of her worries.
  • The Way out of Suffering: The path to nirvana is contemplating, practicing, and living the lesson of the orange pants. The orange pants have Buddha-nature!

orange pants


Jay said...

I have never read such an enlightening and entertaining story before; excellent blend of both.

volterwd said...

Ive never understood conversion... how can you convert... if your convert did you really believe the first thing? and if you didnt... well then didnt u just pick up a religion

StudyBuddhism said...

Your submission has been included in the Carnival of Buddhism! Thanks! :)