Dress Code

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You may recall that six year old Son loves sports. He loves to play them, talk about them, watch them, and dress for them. Last Spring, we bought several pairs of athletic shorts for him to wear on hot days in the summer. You know, the kinds that hang down to their knees. The kind that many older boys wear to school. We see our ten year old neighbor wearing them each morning at the bus stop. After swimming class, we see all the boys at the Middle School wearing them as they board the buses. Son wants to wear them to school, too.


The only problem is me. Mom. I don’t think they look “nice.” And I want to have a nicely dressed son. Now, for those of you snickering, guffawing and wagging your finger that I should presume to control Son’s outfits (or nodding your heads in agreement that, horrors, you certainly don’t want your son dressing like this for school); let me fill you in on the background behind my micromanaging madness.


I attended grade school in the 70’s and 80’s and my mother insisted that we dress nicely for school. For my sister and I, this meant we could wear pants twice a week but had to wear a dress or skirt three days a week. This lasted into middle school for me, not high school. I’m not emotionally scarred by the experience (that I can tell, yet) and continue to dress nicely most of the time. In other words, I have a certain barometer for appearances that I think have served me well.


And I want Son to follow suit. (First children really do suffer, don’t they?) I love it when he looks all tucked in and tidy – which only occurs before a major holiday. But the truth is, that’s not who he is. Son loves getting dressed up but on a daily basis, he’s an athletic wear kind of guy.


I might have more success with modeling this dress code for Son if I’d married a Polo shirt kind of guy. But I married a t-shirt guy. And Husband played lots of sports when he was in school. In fact, he probably dressed for basketball practice every day.


(I’ll note here, that Husband has been graciously silent on this battle, merely rolling his eyes and giving me a “yeah-just-try-to-keep-winning-this-one” smile.)


But, stubborn as mothers can be, I insist that Son wear athletic shorts only on soccer practice days and Fridays. (Don’t ask me how I came up with Friday as an additional day – something along the lines of Casual Fridays floated through my head.)


Last Thursday we had a problem. Son desperately wanted to wear exercise shorts or pants.


“You can wear them tomorrow. It’s Friday.”


Tears ensued and a huge battle for control. Did he really need this trauma before school? Why did I have the rule in the first place?


Because in my view, kids who dress nicely earn a certain respect from adults and their peers. Of course, they aren’t dressing for adults or said peers; they’re dressing for their friends and themselves.


But, still, I wasn’t willing to throw in the towel. I know that I’ll have no say in a year or two. So part of me is trying to hold onto control (go ahead, snicker) and instill my more traditional values on a dress code while I can.


As we reached an impasse last Thursday, I realized that Son was also battling for control. So I compromised to give a little while still holding firm.


“Okay,” I said. “You can wear athletic shorts or pants two days a week. You choose the days.”


“So I can wear them today?”


“Yes, but then tomorrow you’ll have to wear regular shorts.”


He smiled.


He didn’t complain again last week and chose which days to wear his athletic shorts this week. No fuss. Am I off the hook?


I realize that my two days/three days idea harkens back to my Mom’s rule. It’s a balance thing. Look like a nicely dressed boy more than you look sloppy in sportswear.


Then the practicality dawns on me. He plays soccer every day during recess. Wouldn’t athletic shorts be more comfortable? Naahhhhh.



One Comment

  1. YES! I also cringe when my son puts on the athletic shorts for school, and I feel the same way about sweatpants as the weather gets colder. They are fine for Saturday around the house, apres-ski, soccer games, etc. — not school PLEASE!

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