Every family has their battlegrounds. Ours often involve clothes. This morning as we were trying to get the kids ready for church, we had an epic, tear-stained, 20-minute ordeal with our oldest son. Naturally, it was about pants.
Xander put on his red long-sleeved T-shirt that says “Whiz Kid” on the front, and a pair of bright red jogging pants. He insisted on being dressed all in red. Now, we don’t get very fancy for church: we usually wear jeans, and I consider it a bonus if Oscar leaves the house without yogurt on his face. But we’ve drawn the line in the past over Xander’s raggedy jogging pants. So we sent him back to change.
Some days he’d handle that OK. This was not one of those days.
There were tears, and screaming, and desperate pleas. He even dealt us a low blow: “Nana would let me wear my red pants!” (He hasn’t learned yet that that never, ever works.)
For Xander, it wasn’t just about pants. He had a plan. “I have to dress all in red so I can be camouflaged when I stand by red objects!” We weren’t just asking him to change his pants— we were thwarting his brilliant scheme.
It became clear that we had reached an impasse. We were not changing our minds, and Xander was not going to let it go. At some point I wondered out loud if it was really all that big a deal if he wore his jogging pants for one Sunday. But it was the principle of the thing. We’d reached the point of no return; we couldn’t give in and reward him for throwing a tantrum. It just wouldn’t be right.
(These are the things we tell ourselves as parents, anyway. It makes us feel like we know what we’re doing.)
But eventually we found a logical solution. I dug through all the clothes in the boys’ room and found a pair of grey pants and a new grey hoodie that Xander hadn’t worn yet—it’s still two sizes too big, but it met his criteria of being plain, with no patterns or stripes.
This is where we must pause to appreciate my parenting genius. I calmly convinced my five-year-old that dark grey is a much better camouflage colour than red. Red stands out; how many red objects are there to hide beside, anyway? Dress in grey and you look almost like a ninja. You can blend into the shadows. Plus you have a hood! Pull that up and you’ll be practically invisible!
Gradually he came around. He may be one intense little kid, but sometimes sound reasoning will actually win him over. He put on his dark grey clothes and curled up on his grey pillowcase and I said, “Xander? Where did you go? I can’t even see you!”
My argument was so convincing that Oscar decided he had to take off his bright orange sweatshirt and change into something grey too. Two steps forward, one step back.
These types of delicate psychological negotiations are all in a morning’s work around here. Some days it’s a miracle we leave the house at all.