In our home we operate under a ‘use it up, wear it out, make do or do without’ theology (thank you The NonConsumer). And if, or when, the kids need something new, we first check the attic where we store used, but gently worn, clothes. With five kids and generous friends and neighbors I have procured quite the stash. You see, we're big on hand me downs around here, or more accurately, I'm big on hand me downs. I know my teenagers hate it, but since they want to live in our nice, warm house instead of a cardboard box it is the way we currently roll.
In fact, never ever do we head out for a day of shopping. If they need something, and if it's not in the attic, then I'll look for a deal and bring home what they need. That includes thrift store shopping. And thanks to rapper Macklemore, “Poppin tags” (aka shopping at second hand stores) is not as embarrassing as it used to be.
That's why when Christmas rolled around and the kids got new clothes, stuff they wanted and, yes needed, they were pretty thrilled.
But now we're four weeks away from the holidays and I got two problems. Either A. my kids will only wear what I bought them and nothing else, or B. they absolutely refuse to wear what I purchased. Refuse. As in, still got the tags and sitting in the dresser drawer abandoned.
Really? It's all or nothing around here?
The little ones love their new, fuzzy sweatshirts so much they literally will not wear anything else. In fact, they argue with me every singe morning that their sweatshirts are so warm they don't need winter jackets.
And the big, I'm too smart for my mom to tell me what's cool teenagers? They will not wear their new clothes because they don't like the color. Because the right color of blue for blue jeans and tan for khaki pants are apparently critical to one's social status in junior and senior high.
So while my little girls walk around everyday looking the same, my sons too, wear the same but old, oversized, I was on a flag football team once, free t-shirts and thread bare pants. They look as if they are ready to landscape my lawn every second of every day.
They sleep in the same clothes. They go to practice in the same set and worse, and much to my horror, go to school in the same, sad garb. They have one look and it's hobo athletic.
I guess I mistakenly thought that they wore the same things because they had nothing else. So I, in my infinite wisdom with my incredible sense of style, purchased handsome polo’s and dark wash denim from A NAME BRAND STORE that they will not wear - no matter how much cajoling I do.
I've even withheld the old clothes and hid them in the laundry room thinking out of sight is out of mind only to have my children track me down and ask where their stuff is. Now honestly, I admit I am tempted to lie, "The washer ate it" or "I never saw it" but since I'm trying to raise children who value honesty, I fess up every time.
And if you think I forced these new items of clothes on my kids I didn't. I asked, "Did you like your new jeans?" “Oh, yes, Mom!" they said angelically while trying them on for me to see, "I love these new jeans!" Little rascals. They tricked me! Now the receipts are long gone and returning them is near impossible.
One evening I went into my childrens' rooms and set out outfits. I thought to myself, maybe they don't know the value of a well-put together ensemble. But alas, not only did they not wear what I suggested; they crumpled them up and threw them in their dirty basket. Which is where they stayed until I went to do the laundry. I know because I almost lost my mind when I discovered them on laundry day.
Don't my kids know I could have easily spent that money on myself? Wouldn't I like new clothes in my closet? But no! I'm a classic mother-martyr and I spend money on my kids before I do on myself. And there those clothes sit.
I guess what I'm saying is, when you see my kids, and you think to yourself, "Doesn't their mother see this fashion disaster?" I want you to know; I know. I know and I hate it. I shopped. I provided. I've done everything but dress them myself, which, let's be honest, at 9, 14 & 15, 18 that's just a little too mommy dearest.
No, I'm stuck. I'm stuck looking at the same, sad sorry outfits engaged in a battle I just cannot win. Therefore, I vow I will not shop for them again. If they want something they will have to go to the store with me. Which of course, my sons will never do. So all that's left for me to do is to accept their sorry fashion state.
This will be hard for me, people. Yet I throw up the white flag in honor of saving my sanity. If I can't teach my kids how to rotate their closet, the very least I can to is make sure what they love to wear is clean. So excuse me, I have some laundry to do. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why.
Stephanie is a parent educator for the Monmouth-Roseville school district and believes she personally has a great fashion sense. This article appears as a part of her weekly Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media company. She can be reached for parenting services or speaking engagements at ssikorski(at)mr238.org