We don’t “do” back-to-school shopping. Because we are savvy, frugal types who understand that our children don’t need an entirely new wardrobe just because it’s September and what they already own is just fine HA HA HA JUST KIDDING.
It’s really because I’m just not that organized. Or that interested. I’m a reactionary shopper: We buy shoes the day I realize I can no longer mash my son’s feet into his current pair. We buy shirts because there are no shirts that fit. We buy a winter coat the day after winter starts.
The biggest drawback to this shopping plan (besides, you know, sending my kid to school in a 4T hoodie on a day he really needs a size 6 parka) is that I tend to miss sales or promotions because I’m not paying attention and end up having to just show up at a store and BUY STUFF, WHATEVER STUFF, LOOK HERE IS SOME STUFF.
And this shopping plan is a direct result of only having boys. Oh, if there’s anything that can cause pangs of daughter-envy, it’s clothes shopping. I gaze across the aisle from my stack of Generic Lil’ Tough Guy Truck Shirts Version Eight Thousand And Four, over to the racks of brightly colored tutus and leggings and dresses and it burns. IT BURNS.
This year, I bought Noah the first pair of sneakers he tried on and called it a day. We had plenty of clothes from last winter that I’d bought big and would still fit. Ezra is awash in hand-me-downs from his brother and cousin and wouldn’t need a thing. I just had to…find the right box.
(CUE OMINOUS, OBVIOUS FOREBODING-TYPE GROANING SOUNDS)
I couldn’t find the right box. I found SOME boxes, but an entire box of size 2T jeans and pants was just…gone. I swore I’d stashed it in their closet, but no. Poof. I wondered if it ever existed, or if I’d assumed Ezra would be in 3T this year and gave them away, but that wouldn’t make sense because I would have saved them for the baby unless I did it before I was pregnant with the baby and holy CATS, Noah, why are your arms so long? How is it possible to outgrow clothing simply in the ARMS?
As luck would have it, though, Babble asked if I’d be willing to write about clothes shopping as part of a paid promotion deal-thing with Old Navy. They were having a sale! Go shopping with your kids and write about it. You know, if you want to. Do you want to?
Do I want to.
THIS WAS MY EVIL PLAN ALL ALONG. ALMOST SIX FULL YEARS OF DRESSING MY CHILDREN LIKE OFF-SEASON RAGAMUFFINS HAS NOW PAID OFF. KA-CHING.
But…I usually shop for my kids, not with them, though. In their minds, clothing just magically appears in the closet, and every morning I grab something from the closet. “Here,” I say. “Wear this.”
Noah went through a phase where he would only wear red shirts (for Gryffindor, OF COURSE), and Ezra would probably wear his yellow shirt with a tractor on it paired with dinosaur rain boots every day if he could, but other than that, they just don’t care. Perhaps…this was my fault. Perhaps I hadn’t included them in our shopping trips enough, or in the dressing process, because I was always just grabbing whatever and ordering them to wear it. Perhaps I was stifling their self-expression by being so disinterested in what they wore, because they are boys and boy clothes don’t interest me and I am maybe subconsciously expressing disappointment over not having a girl and ANGST GUILT OKAY LET’S ALL GO SHOPPING.
So over the weekend we showed up at the mall, three children in tow. I strapped the baby to my chest, ready to indulge my children in a journey of self-expression through textiles. Whatever they wanted, no matter how mismatched or wacky or hell, even just another lame Lil’ Tough Guy Truck Shirt Version Four Million And Two.
(Upon arriving, we promptly lost the two-year-old under a table of henleys. My husband and I immediately began the “but I thought YOU were watching that one” game, which is always SUPER FUN until you hear your child’s description going out over the store employees’ walkie talkies.)
I asked Noah if he wanted to pick out some new shirts for kindergarten. I waved my arm grandly around the boys’ department and told him to choose whatever he wanted. (An only-in-Old-Navy-during-sale-time offer, for sure.) I imagined posting a lovely photo post, with Noah modeling the outfits he’d chosen, his individuality and personality ebbing through each and every one.
He stared at me for a second. Then he turned to the table on his left, picked up the shirt closest to him and handed it to me. “Here,” he said. Then he ran off to watch TV.
I tried the same thing with Ezra. Look, Ezra! Star Wars! Trains! Stripes! Which shirt would YOU like, buddy?
Ezra was a bit more enthusiastic. “ALL OF THEM!” he declared, and scooped up two piles of shirts and tried to fit them into our shopping bag. Then he took his current shirt off and started to de-pants himself before I could explain that no, we had to pay for our new clothes first before we could wear them.
This was, apparently, a go-boneless-on-the-floor level disappointment. He announced that he wanted NO SHIRTS. NONE OF THEM. I TIRED. I tried to get him up but the physics of babywearing + gravity + old lady knees wasn’t really going to let that happen so I shrugged and left him there. My husband later asked why Ezra was running around with only one arm in his shirt, which was also backwards.
“I dunno. I thought YOU were watching him.”
So I ended up picking out all their clothes by myself, like always, using a strict selection process of Oh Look This Is Their Size. Noah got some shirts and socks, Ezra got pants and Ike…well:
Perhaps it’s not such a bad deal being the one in charge of the wardrobe after all.
PS. LOOK WHAT I JUST FOUND.
PPS. I FOUND IT IN THEIR CLOSET.