I read this post at The Mom Trap earlier, and it got me thinking on several subjects. I, too, hate the “my pretty princess” themes in girls’ toys and clothing; the bratty T-shirt slogans are even worse, especially when worn by anyone other than a bershon adolescent. I don’t have a daughter, though, so the sparkly pink Spoiled Brat T-shirts (not to mention the too-short shorts they now sell for preteens and the padded bras marketed at six-year-olds… shudder) are unlikely to ever be an issue while my family’s size remains stable.
The fact remains that I don’t want to dress my son in certain ways. Oddly enough, the equivalent of “little princess” garb seems to be not “little prince” but “monster truck” screened prints and slogans. And that’s the kind of thing I’d rather avoid. I’m not opposed to Nate having trucks, cars, and trains on his clothing — they’re his favorite things, after all — but somehow, the big-wheeled monster trucks with CRUSH ‘EM as a slogan and the toddler-sized military garb is not my cup of tea.
I’ve spent most of my life not caring much about clothing (and looking like a slob as a result, but that’s another entry or twelve). Nate spent the first few months of his life in baby shower chic, and I didn’t spend a penny on his clothing until he was two months old, outgrowing most of his shower gifts, and I bought him two rompers for about $7. And in those few months, I came to realize that people were taking note of what he wore, and sometimes judging my parenting on that basis.
The judgments made me angry, but they also did make me think about his clothes. What I’ve decided over the last couple of years is that while I don’t care if someone chooses such a petty reason to pick on me (though even can still make me angry), I do care how I dress my child. I will not put him in flimsy clothes with monster truck logos, I will not buy clothes with status brands emblazoned across the chest, and I won’t dress him in all blue or olive green. I also will not pay so much for an article of clothing that I’ll be financially hurt if it gets a small stain and I can’t resell it for what I’d expect with lighter wear; I want my kid to play, not worry about keeping clean.
Now, I know that a lot of progressive-type parents complain about girls’ clothes being all girly-girl, which they are; but you mothers of sons will know what I am saying when I say boys’ clothes are somehow, in the age of girl power, even worse. They’re all about military crap, or sci-fi movies with fighting in them, and they’re all black or olive drab or some kind of hideous boring colors. So what I do when I shop with or for PK is go for the middle: bright colors, preferably solids or stripes or perky flowers (PK loves flowers), avoiding the militaristic crud or the Star Wars logos.
If you haven’t tried shopping for a little boy with this in mind, you’d be surprised at how hard it is to find the clothes in the middle, the bright colors without the tanks or the offensive clothing. (Note that “clothes in the middle” does not equal what is “gender neutral” clothing in most people’s minds. “Clothes in the middle” will look boyish or girlish to some people, even if they’re being worn by the opposite gender. I just don’t care.) To make matters more difficult, I also don’t like characters on clothing; I’m not going to deny him the Curious George overalls my sister gave him for his birthday, but I’m not going to buy a Mickey Mouse or Elmo T-shirt, no matter how cheap or cute it is: He doesn’t even know who those characters are, and I’m not going to introduce them to him by way of his clothing. I’m a little lucky in that Nate likes stereotypical little boy subject matter on his clothing — cars, trains, planes — so I just have to stick with the ones that don’t offend my sensibilities in other ways.
Other times, though, I have to cross the aisle and try to find non-frilly clothes in the girl’s section. I insist that flowers are gender-neutral: boys can like flowers, too, not just non-flowering plants. I don’t reserve pink for girls (though I don’t seek it out, even though Nate likes the color, because it doesn’t look good on him). And if Nate picks out a pair of light-purple sneakers with silvery trim, I am not going to force him to wear black or brown ones. Bright, solid colors can be easier to find in the girls’ section, so I sometimes check there… but it can also be hard to find them without lace.
It’s a fine line to walk, and I’m sure as he gets older and has more imput into what he wears, I’ll have to relax most of my “rules.” And regardless, if family or friends choose to give my child clothing, I’m not going to turn it down. Even if it has a status brand emblazoned on the chest.