Dressing Up for May Day

In a house of boys living in the oh-so-casual West, we don’t dress up often. So, dress-up days at school cause us some angst.

Do the khakis that fit you at Grandparents’ Day still fit for May Day? Is your only button-down shirt still on the ironing board after six months? No dear, athletic socks do not go with fancy shoes. Your loafers are too small? Can you wear them for two more hours? No time to shop!

And we have sensory issues. Even the softest dress pants rub against the back of one son’s knees and leave a “rash”. Tags we forget to cut out of anything new itch to distraction. Ties make them feel like they’re choking.

And then, when they are all looking absolutely handsome five minutes before departure, I step outside into the sunshine – dressing up in daytime a rare thing for me too – and realize my skirt is completely see-through.

Oh my god, do I even own a slip?!

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Jacket and Tie

The boys dressed up for mass and dinner on Christmas Eve. I am used to complaining and grumpiness because khakis aren’t soft enough or there are too many buttons on shirts. So my nine year old surprised me. He has finally grown into one of the blue blazers in the house, and that made him really proud. He asked if he could shower first, went in search of a tie, dug out a nice pair of shoes that an older brother wore once, and grinned ear to ear at me every time I caught his eye.

It had never occurred ot me that a blue blazer and tie might be a milestone, something to remember forever until I saw that smile.

Battle over the Sweatshirt

On Monday, when I forced my fourteen year old to bring his sweatshirt to school because it was below freezing, he leaped out of the car at the school’s west gate, slammed the door, and turned to smile at me, pointing at the passenger seat and running off. He wore shorts and a short-sleeve polo. His sweatshirt was still in the car.

On Tuesday, it was 27 degrees when I drove him to school. I had shoved the sweatshirt into his backpack when he wasn’t looking. He was wearing shorts again. At 3:00, when I picked the kids up, he smiled. “I didn’t even take it out of my backpack.”

I knew what he was talking about.

Today, it was 24 degrees. Shorts. I gave up on the sweatshirt. A coat? Ha!

I just want to understand why.

Does he have a reputation for wearing shorts all year? Is he trying to break some ridiculous “I wore shorts” for the most consecutive days of anyone at school? Prove his manhood? Did someone say he looks like a dork in jeans? Is he an alien who doesn’t feel cold?

Or is this just what boys do to entertain themselves in winter?

No Fashion Sense

I am dressed up for a client interview, needing to feel confident. Wondering why I am not completely comfortable with my outfit. It fits nicely. Comfortable but professional. Makes me look thin.

Then my son looks me up and down as we walk out to the door – too late to change – “Mom, you look like a flight attendant.”

And that’s it. I do. Exactly.

He giggles. “Please take care when opening the overhead bins, as items may have shifted during our flight.”

I think he’s getting back at me for making him study for exams.

Another Lesson Learned about Judging Other Moms

Parenting is a highly reiterative lesson on the folly of judging others, yet it seems to take many little ah-ha moments for me to learn.

Driving through morning carpool as the seasons change, there is a diverse array of garb. The girls in first grade start wearing tights with their cute little skirts. Overnight, the boys in second grade might trade their shorts and t-shirts for a Broncos sweatshirt and jeans. A few of the little ones even march onto campus in jackets.

Then there is the boy who stands with his too skinny shoulders hunched, hands stuffed in pockets, shivering in shorts and pledging allegiance to the flag during all-school outdoor assembly. Or the girl who has grown inches since spring, revealing bare, knobby knees and goose-bumped arms as snowflakes land in her hair.

And as a mom of little ones, you can’t help but think, “Who is his mother?” Or “Where are her parents? She is going to freeze to death!”

Well, after years of judging other parents for their lack of control over their child’s clothing decisions, I know who his mother is.

It’s me. The mom of middle school boys who wear shorts in winter and no sweatshirts at recess. They refuse to wear a jacket to stay warm when the morning frost still glistens, just in case the afternoon sun makes them look like dorks carrying winter coats.

It was not long ago, when that bothered me. No more.

It is not that I care less about whether they catch pneumonia, or less about how they present themselves to others, or less about how I am judged as a parent. I do remind them a hundred times or more. But I know that when they can’t take it anymore – well before they die of hypothermia – they will decide on their own to dress sensibly.

And I am focused much more on preparing them to be good, hard-working, kind, successful, happy young men… who may look a bit ridiculous in the year’s first snow.