Thursday, September 13, 2012

Because I Said So: Season of transition a fashion nightmare

My mother will take great pleasure in this week's "Because I Said So" column because I mention that my sons wear jackets to school regardless of the temperature. I did the same thing as a boy and it drove her crazy. I know it drove her crazy because it drives me crazy to see them leave the house with them on and then return home, when the mercury is hovering in the 90s, still wearing them. They say their schools are cold, but I've been in both of their schools in the past week and did just fine without an extra layer of fleece.

Today's column is about the transition from summer to fall, and the requisite lengthening of sleeves and pant legs that comes with cooler weather. For the smallest children, it's as though I'm asking them to hunt and kill a caribou, skin it, tan the hide and fashion their own winter wear.

I'm almost certain I've written a very similar column before, maybe last fall if not the fall prior, but that's what being a parent is, isn't it? It's that endless repetition of seasons and laundry and fits and tempers. For some reason, with each change of the season, I think it's going to improve. I really believe that this year I'll say, "You should wear long pants and a sweater" to whomever the youngest might be and they'll say, "Good thinking, sir, I'll go change into that right now." It's folly to think they'd ever call me "sir." And it's the blind optimism – or shortness of memory – that makes parenthood work. We have to think each year, each season, every day, will get better and easier because if we didn't we'd go mad; or madder.

So pull on your woolen socks, slip on your favorite cardigan, have a seat and enjoy this edition of "Because I Said So."

Season of transition a fashion nightmare

I just returned home from walking a few of my kids up to school, and there was something in the air this morning. It wasn't the apprehension of a looming quiz or the incomplete homework stuffed into backpacks, not this time. I walked on one side of my daughter, holding her hand, while the crispness of autumn touched the other. The sun was lower in the sky at that early hour, and we all remarked on the temperature difference from the previous day's walk.

It isn't cold, not by any stretch, but the thermometer does herald cooler days, days when we'll be donning coats and hats and gloves for the two-block walk each morning.

For now, though, it's simply cooler out, a refreshing respite. Perhaps a light jacket or sweater will suffice; a pair of long pants, certainly. Not for my daughter, though, not yet. For a 6-year-old, these are the days (weeks?) of transition. This is the end of the shorts and short sleeves, the end of sandals and skirts, but it's going to take some time to get used to such a sartorial shift.

Genevieve refused leggings worn beneath a skirt this morning, based solely on color. Navy blue? Not school sanctioned, according to her. The same jacket she wore every day last winter, in and out of school, is suddenly not a proper uniform cover-up. Not that sweater, no, not ever. "But they actually call it 'sweater weather,'" I pleaded.

Her parents, of course, don't know what they're talking about when they assure her that she can wear blue pants, that she can wear that very same jacket she wore only six months ago, that the sweater looks cute on her. But how could we possibly know anything?

This fight doesn't apply to the boys. To be fair, though, my sons have been wearing fleece jackets to school all school year — a year made up mostly of the month of August — as if their first class of the day is Intro to Igloos. It burns me up, literally, to see my son walk in at the end of a school day wearing an admittedly school-appropriate jacket, when the heat index is 103.

I've asked my sons not to wear jackets when it's still so hot outside, but they say their classrooms are cold. I tell my daughter she should wear one because it's cold in the morning, but she says it will be hot at dismissal. I stop talking. I need to have faith that somewhere, maybe in the pockets of that coat, they carry with them the common sense to stay warm or dry, to not succumb to heat stroke in the name of — or the profound lack of — fashion.

When we got to school this morning, we met up with Genevieve's friend, a little girl wearing navy blue pants who seemed comfortable in the morning air. I saw the opportunity to make a point. "See those pants, Genevieve? What color are those?"
The look she returned was chilling.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook:

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