So the one day I don’t want him to wear his “Sponge Bob Square Pants” t-shirt (that would be picture day) is the day he chooses it. How did this piece of apparel even make it into his potential wardrobe selections? I mean, seriously. It’s not like I bought it for him.
I hatch a plan. Certain articles of clothing mysteriously “disappear”. First, they need to be “washed”. Then, they might languish in the “laundry” for a very long time. (“Mommy? Have you seen my ‘Phinneas and Ferb’ t-shirt? You know, the one that Grandmom got me?” The only proper response here is, “It must be in the laundry.”)
The next step in the progression is to pray that your child forgets about the item all together. This is the point where you curse yourself for playing hour upon hour of memory games with him when he was two and bragging to your friends how he is gifted and can remember events from years ago in minute detail. He is intimately acquainted with every t-shirt that has made its way into his closet. He is well-versed in who bought him the shirt, for what occasion (5th birthday, Christmas, Easter, souvenir from the beach, etc), when he wore it last, and exactly how long it has been missing (three seconds).
Another tactic I have been forced to use is the sketchy It-Doesn’t-Fit-You-Anymore Ploy. I doubt this would hold up in a court of law, but Pokemon will drive you to extreme measures. My problem is that my son challenges me (“What do you mean, it doesn’t fit? It did when I wore it two days ago! Go get it,” like the deranged dictator that he is, “and let me try it on. I think you’re wrong, Mommy.”)
I have also been known to employ the Huh-Maybe-You-Lost-It Option (be warned, this exercise is not for amateurs—it is very very difficult to pull this one off). I normally have to utilize this one in conjunction with my friend the TV, as in “I’m sorry you lost your ‘Star Wars Battle of the Clones’ shirt, honey, oh look—‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is on! I think it’s a new episode!”
The problem with well-meaning friends (“I know it’s a hand-me-down, but I really thought Tall would love the Halloween ‘Headless Horseman with Machete’ t-shirt!") and generous family members (“The lady at Old Navy said that all the boys are wearing these shirts with ‘Capture The Killer’ logos”) is that they give the item in question to your child directly. There is no Mom Censorship Intermediate Step (which should be mandatory, sort of like the waiting period for buying guns). No. They say things like, “Tall! I have a present for you!” and get the child’s heart rate up, and then guess who looks like the bad guy?
So this begs the question: How would my children dress in my ideal world, the World Without Arguing? They would wear preppy little outfits, composed almost exclusively of plaid shorts, polo tops, and sweater vests or khaki pants paired with little denim shirts and white sneakers……. a rhapsody in mini-J.Crew. You cannot imagine the bickering that ensues to get these ensembles on their little bodies.
Naturally, I have been reduced to bribery. On our refrigerator, each child has a Smiley Face Chart for doing chores or random acts of kindness. 20 smiley faces earns a special prize. The currency works something like this: setting the table warrants one smiley; brushing teeth without being asked is also one smiley; putting all their toys away is two. The going rate for wearing a plaid button-down shirt and coordinating shorts? That would be an extortion-worthy four smileys.
All evidence to the contrary, I am not obsessed with what my children are wearing. It’s just that they are so little—6 and 4—and I feel like this is my last tiny window of opportunity to dress them the way I want (although as I type this I am having flashbacks to The Husband dressing them as babies: “Sweetheart? The navy plaid sweater with nautical details like the boat on the pocket doesn’t match the green onesie with orange and green jungle animals. And don’t ever put the dinosaur shoes on with an outfit like that.”) I love it when my sons look like the darling sweet boys they are; I’m not ready for them to dress like the teen-agers they will too soon become.
Now come over here, Tall, and let me help you with that cute red and tan race car sweater ("How many? uh, I guess that would be three smileys,").
(“Ministry Of Violations”)