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White Knuckle Parenting: Clothes Conundrum

Since when did finding clothes for my kids get so hard?

You know how there are those things about parenting that you assumed would be totally easy, but turned out to be anything but? Dressing three boys, who would presumably not much care what they wear, is one of those things.

I bought my oldest son pants last week and he actually agreed to wear them. It was practically family newsletter-worthy information. The secret is that I took him to the store and let him pick out his own pants. Who would have guessed that would work? Also, I would never in a million years have chosen the pants that he did.

It turns out that for that kid, age 10 is the magic number for when I had to stop buying pants I think are fun, comfy, and perfectly good pants and start taking him with me to let him pick out his own clothing. It is too bad that it took me until now to figure this out, considering he is actually 11. Hopefully one of his brothers will wear the pants I bought him last year that still have the tags on them.

It would be one thing if my kids had been easy to clothe and suddenly it got complicated, but I should have known better. My kids have been difficult for years. This is upsetting to me, because I was promised that one of the advantages of having boy children is that you can just throw t-shirts and jeans at them and they will wear them. It's supposed to be one of the consolation prizes for not getting to put glittery dresses on your children.

Turns out that was just another lie that the moms who came before told me.

My youngest son was the first to assert himself when it came to clothing decisions. He was two. In retrospect, I understand that his clothes choices had more to with his sensory issues and underlying quirkiness than fashion sense, but that knowledge doesn't make him look like less of a hobo every day. 

That kid hasn't worn a button on his clothes since his first year of preschool. He refuses to wear sweaters. And if those pants even look like denim, he's not going to go near them. Even color was a big deal for him. For an extremely long time, he would only wear sweatpants and yellow t-shirts.

It got to the point that I started downloading pictures of his favorite logos and cartoon characters from the internet and ironing them onto his yellow shirts so he didn't look exactly the same every day. If any of you have picky dressers, you can find the iron-on printer paper at the craft store in the desperation aisle.

In fact, when I took my youngest with us on his brother's pants shopping trip the other day, I had him pick out some long-sleeved t-shirts, so he wouldn't end up wearing the same school logo shirt he's worn twice a week all year. Thank goodness there were plain shirts at the store, because he refused anything with any writing or pictures or shapes on it. God forbid there were a stripe.

Pants are similarly tricky for him. He is not a fan of belt loops, buttons, or anything with a fly, zippered or otherwise. The silver lining is that he doesn't leave rocks and things in his pockets to break our washing machine—because he doesn't have pockets.

Thankfully, my middle kid is pretty relaxed about what he wears. Ironically, he is the kid with the autism diagnosis, whom you would assume would be the most rigid. Not so. I had put some virtually unworn hand-me-down jeans from his brother in his drawer because I had no other place to put them. He showed up yesterday morning wearing them.

I almost fell over. Good for him.

I guess I'm lucky that I made it through a whole decade of buying my kids' clothes without having to drag them along. I'm a little sad to see those days end though, because as much as I like letting my children express themselves through their clothing, I really liked being able to go to the store and just throw stuff into the cart without worrying about their opinions.

What I am excited about, however, is the fact that my children all have seasonal clothing that fits them now. No more short-sleeves in November. No more stained shirts that are the only ones they will agree to wear. No more pants that stop at the bottom of their shins. 

I assume that their bizarre color combinations will continue. (A red shirt with maroon track pants? Come on now.)

Now, if I could just convince them to agree on the same clothing styles so I could pass them down from one kid to another, life would be great. But who am I kidding? It's never going to happen.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, is a freelance writer who writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.

Delora November 21, 2012 at 07:59 PM
My 12yo hasn't worn a pair of jeans since he was 3 (though he does own a pair of Dockers with a real zipper and everything for "dressy" occasions). I go with it, mostly because track pants are cheaper than jeans, and eventually he'll start to like girls and will maybe want to look presentable at that point.
Jean Winegardner November 22, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I'm hopeful for that girl thing too. Or boys. Or, hell, anyone that they want to impress. If it gets them out of stained t-shirts, I'm all for it.
Fiona Cameron November 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Not just boys my DD on the spectrum is the same last pair jeans on her where size 8mths she would just cry till u took them off her after that ! It's got to b cotton soft and stretch ! No labels , buttons , zips it's a nightmare really with the way she grows lol ! At least the colours r ok purples lol dreading bra SHopping in not to distant future !
Jean Winegardner November 29, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Oh lord, bra shopping. That hadn't even occurred to me. Maybe I really am glad I have boys!


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