The Impossible Prom Dress

Never before have I known so quickly that I was about to make a horribly bad decision.  We were in the fabric store flipping through the pattern books.  I had agreed to “help” my 16-yr-old sew her prom dress this year.  She knows how to sew….basically.  I had envisioned something quite simple.  I had intended to guide her in that direction once we were at the fabric store.  Once we were there, the available books showed a tiny selection of ghastly formal dresses.  Even I thought they were all hideously ugly.  But in the very last book, we saw it.


I cringed.  I am a skilled seamstress.  I knew exactly how difficult this dress would be long before I read the warning label.

The warning they really should put on the outside of this pattern.

I told her how incredibly hard this would be.  The fabric alone would be murder to work with.  She convinced me that it would be this great project to do together and she would be patient.  I was a fool and agreed, shelling out $90 for the raw materials.  “When is prom?” I queried at the checkout.

“I don’t know.  Our student council is so disorganized.  We have time though.  It’s not for a while.”  she replied blithely,  looking at the pale pink chiffon in her hands.

DANGER!! DANGER!!  Why were the warning bells not going off in my head?  I was agreeing to 40+ hours of highly stressful sewing with a teenage girl that has minimal skills and only a few minutes in a good week when she can stand my company.  Good heavens.  I am such a sucker.  How could I have been so naive as to think that this project would bring us together?  Am I new around here or something?

The next week, I set aside time on Saturday to work on the dress, but she was busy.  Sunday, I was busy all day.  The next weekend, we were in Mexico, and oh, my what an adventure and team-building experience THAT was.  (read “Traveling with Teenage Girls: A Cautionary Tale”:

I was still recovering from the trip when she sent me this text message on Thursday, March 31st:  “Prom is April 16th.  We need to get started on the dress.”  We had two weeks to create this gown and I’d already committed to helping my father and boyfriend putting up the 24′ of privacy fence that had blown down the first day we were in Mexico.

As I have said before, I have the best boyfriend ever, so he and my dad worked on the fence while my daughter and I were inside laying the fabric out.  We were about, oh…. I’d say 15 minutes in, and she was already so irritated with me she was snapping at everything I did.  I finally stopped.  “What is the problem?!”

She burst into tears.  “I know you don’t really want to be here.  You want to be out there helping David and you’re just going to let me down like you always do!  You don’t care about anyone but yourself!”

I was floored.  I assured her that it wasn’t true, that I wanted to work on this with her and we had the whole day to do it, no pressure.  I tried to hug her, but she was stiff as a post.  She had made a decision; I didn’t love her.  I was going to let her down.  I didn’t care about anyone but myself.  Now she had to prove it.

It didn’t take long.  She was short tempered and huffed at me every time I touched the slithery fabric.  She was mad at the scissors for being too dull, at the lack of pins, at the wind for blowing the pattern pieces when someone came through the door.  She was getting more wound up every minute.  When I had to unpin a piece for the third time and adjust it so all the pieces would fit, she blew.

“Why didn’t you pin it down right the first time?! You never think things though! You’re so stupid!” she blasted.

“Did you just call me stupid?!”  I was stunned.

“Yes, I did, because you are!”  She was crying again.

I was done.  I walked away to keep myself from saying or doing something I would certainly regret.  She stormed downstairs and into the shower.  I had proven her right; I had let her down.  Now she wouldn’t have a prom dress, and it would be all my fault.

It took me a while to calm down and when I came back into the dining room, the dress was still there, scattered over everything like a filmy, pink explosion.  I knew her game and decided to finish cutting it out before I packed (or threw) anything away.

I called my ex-husband, who was supposed to spend the next day with her.  I wanted him to hear my side of the story before she got there and gave him the “Mom is a Monster” version.

“She set you up.  I offered to buy her dress, but she insisted that the two of you were going to do it together.  I knew it would play out this way,” he said.  His words didn’t hurt.  He was right.  She did set me up, and like a fool, I played right into her plan.  I’m not saying that she’s this maniacal fiend that wants to torture me.  But for some reason, she needs to prove to herself that I don’t love her.  It kills me.  I love her so much my heart breaks these days.  I don’t know how to ease her pain, her stress, her anxiety.  I know she’s got a lot to deal with and she won’t let me in close enough to help her.  When I’m home, she’s gone.  When I leave, she calls, sounding small and hurt and lonely, needing me but insisting that she doesn’t want me to come home.  She pushes me away with all she has and then gets so mad at me for respecting her requests.

She is so incredibly smart, capable, witty, charming, beautiful, talented and mature beyond her years.  One minute she wants to be respected and trusted to make her own decisions (which are usually really good), the next she is furious that I’m not “acting like a mother.”  I’m at a total loss for where to go from here, but I will grasp at every chance I may get to spend time with her for this last year that she is here at home with me.

Monday after school she asked if we could work on the dress for a while.  I asked for an apology and she looked at me, utterly dumbfounded.  Her recollection of Saturday morning was nothing like what had been seared into my memory.   It was as if we had been at two entirely different events.  We worked through it with the help of my tremendously wise mother.   I forgave her.

Saturday, we worked together in harmony.  The dress is far from finished, but we are working on it together.

That’s all I wanted.

My book, Dating, Sex, & Jesus is now available at   Please “like” the Dating, Sex, & Jesus Facebook page at: for fun and interesting content and book excerpts in your feed. Thanks!


About howhardcoulditbe

While this started as a chronicle of my many (sometimes ill-conceived) "Do It Yourself" projects, it has morphed into a journal of my 9-year journey as a single Christian woman striving to live by God's design.
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7 Responses to The Impossible Prom Dress

  1. Another excellent post thanks for sharing! I enjoy reading your blog very much. Spending time with my family is something I love to do. Feel free to stop by Easy Lifestyles sometime. We would love to see you there

  2. Pingback: I Swear I Am Not Making This Up | howhardcoulditbe

  3. Shiku says:

    Reading this took me back to my teenage years (I’m now 21)… speaking from experience, someday, your daughter is going to look back on this and pretty much most of the major events in her life and THANK YOU (at least I hope she has enough sense to lol..). Nowadays I have a sense of respect and admiration for my mother that I never had when I was younger. She was my enemy then. Today, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have in my corner. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the encouragement! Parenting is DEFINITELY not for the faint of heart…

  5. Patricia says:

    Zomg. If I did this to my mom, I would have been b*tch slapped to high heaven. Not that my mom is intolerant, but more like, as early as I can remember, I knew that my parents did the best for us (my brother and I) and that we were loved regardless. I am sorry that you and your daughter went through this tough time. I am rather unsympathetic with your daughter because she’s probably my age group and she doesn’t have a right to act that way. She is manipulative, if a bit spoiled. I don’t know what happened to her, so I am sorry that I am judgmental. But I know this, even thinking of saying half the things she said to you to my own mother makes me cringe and want to kill myself. My mother and I had our tough times too. A lot of tears spent. But never in any of our arguments did I call her stupid. Or said anything to deliberately hurt her. I don’t know her issues, so I really am sorry about being judgmental. It’s just inconceivable for me. I feel for you more. I am sorry that your efforts (and the failure of) are misconstrued as something that is unloving.

    I know that this post was from two years ago, I just felt I had to comment.


    • We were having a rough year. She’s in college now and doing so much better. Relationships with other humans are the hardest things we ever have to do in our entire lives. And for the record, I should have said, “No. It’s waaaay out of our capabilities.” She thought I was so talented, I could pull off anything! I was so flattered, I got myself in over my head. I’m the adult, I could have handled it differently.

      Glad you enjoyed the story, though!

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