If you’re looking for some terrific low-budget entertainment to get you through these cold winter days, I highly suggest watching your child attempt to take off her turtleneck.
Witnessing her problem-solving skills in action is compelling theatre and there’s plenty of time to make a bag of microwave popcorn and settle in for the show. It can be a dramatic sequence of events—like watching Harry Houdini trying to escape from a straightjacket. First: “I’ll just start by pulling off the sleeves… Wait, that doesn’t work.” Second: “I’ve got it! I’ll just pull this over my head and—help! Now I can’t breathe!” Third: “I know—I’ll bite one of my sleeves and start pulling at it with my teeth. And then at the same time… Oh, forget this. Daaaaaaad!”
The truth is, most kids have a hard time getting in and out of clothes properly without a parent’s hands-on assistance. Watching your children attempt to button up their shirts is equally entertaining, because 80 percent of the time they’ve misaligned the buttons after spending 30 minutes wrestling with them. Then they want to know why there’s an extra button at the top or the bottom and you get to tell them that they have to start all over.
And take a pair of jeans. As adults, we calmly and sensibly take our jeans off one leg at a time. Kids, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Unbeknownst to parents, a “How to Awkwardly Remove Your Jeans” handbook is issued to most students in first grade. Here’s an excerpt:
Step one: Don’t unbutton or unzip your jeans, because that would make too much sense.
Step two: Using your right foot, step down on the bottom of the left leg of your jeans.
Step three: Awkwardly pull left leg out. Make sure your sock comes off in the process and is stuck inside the jeans—which should now be inside out.
Step four: Repeat the same method on the right leg, but be sure to hop perilously on one foot for a few seconds, so everyone will wonder if you’re about to fall and sustain an injury.
Step five: Make sure your underwear is also tangled in this inside-out denim mess.
Step six: Leave this pile in the middle of the floor.
Kids also love to mistreat their clothing. They stretch out the necks. They pull on the sleeves to give themselves extra-long arms. (They then proceed to use those sleeves as tissue when they have runny noses.) Many have holes in the knees of their pants from playing dinosaur on the schoolyard pavement or mini-sticks on the carpet. Then there are the stains—grass, blood and fruit juice are the most common culprits, often appearing together on a white shirt after a picnic that went horribly wrong. (And really, why do they bother making white clothes for kids? Children should treat every day like it’s past Labour Day on the fashion calendar.) With that amount of wear and tear, it’s a wonder there’s actually a market for second-hand children’s clothes.
The same goes for footwear. Little kids make like Fred Flintstone and use their feet to stop their bikes because, somehow, that’s easier than squeezing the brake levers. All kids go through a phase where they drag their toes along the pavement as they walk. I’m fairly certain this is hard-wired in their brains, the way salmon are programmed to swim upstream to spawn each year. They rarely bother to unlace their shoes to put them on or take them off. Kids are flexible and can contort their bodies into ridiculous positions, but most find it impossible to simply bend down and untie their shoes. Instead, they shove their feet in however they can and opt for the step-on-the-heel-of-one and then step-on-the-heel-of-the-other approach to take them off. If they had an Olympic event for shoe-removal, I’m pretty sure my kids would hold the world record at 0.84 seconds.
Some parents will read this column and say, “Our children don’t do that with their clothes. They treat their stuff with respect.” And in those cases, I would suggest that maybe you do have a mini-Houdini in the house, because your child is a true master illusionist.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2015 issue with the headline, “Clothes call,” p. 46.
Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.