I’d like to take this opportunity to clear up a possible misconception:
Contrary to what you may think, both my sons actually do own more than two shirts each.
For those of you who see my children regularly, I understand that this may be a difficult truth to grapple with. And I get that. I mean, if I had to shut my eyes and guess, I’d tell you that Rowan is wearing the light-and-dark-blue-striped rugby shirt with the green collar and the crest and that Isaac is similarly clad in a rugby shirt, but his is white (of course his favourite shirt is white — all the better to show all the dirt and paint splatters), with orange and black accents.
“Hey Isaac,” my friend Karen will say to him, “how’s that shirt doing?” And he will smooth it down proudly and tell her, “Fine.”
When those much-loved rugby shirts are in the wash, the boys wring their hands and tear their hair and grudgingly revert to the second-favourite shirts: the light green-and-white-striped soccer jersey for the big one and a totally different light-and-dark-blue-striped rugby shirt for the small one.
(Where does this obsession with stripes come from? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that our kids end up with many more stripy shirts because the alternatives are trucks or airplanes or soldiers or camouflage or the names of stores emblazoned across their chests — all fashion choices that I’m just not down with. Or maybe we — and they — just really like stripes? Who knows?)
And don’t even get me started on the black fuzzy pants.
I don’t particularly mind their limited wardrobe choices. I mean, they’re kids, right? They literally can’t wear the same thing forever — eventually, the shirts, the shirts, the beloved shirts will no longer fit over their heads, and their bodies will burst, Incredible Hulk-like through the seams. I like their passion, their insistence on what they want, social norms (at least, middle-class North American social norms… I realize this is absolutely a first-world phenom) be dratted.
But I do wonder, every so often, if they won’t grow out of the impulse to wear the exact same thing every day, if they’ll end up, say, like my grade eight math teacher who wore the exact same brown corduroy pants, denim shirt, and tweed blazer every. single. day. for the entire year.
And then I look at my own daily uniform — jeans, long-sleeved T-shirt, some form of cardigan, wool socks. I look at the lineup of the V-necked black shirts in my drawer. I think of my green sweater phase, about my sadness about the fraying waistband of the plaid flannel pajama bottoms I’ve had going on 19 years (confession: I’m wearing them right now), and I think, Yeah. I know exactly where they get it from.
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