What Not to Wear

Sometimes when acquaintances learn that my children are all boys, they will say something brilliant and flippant like “Oh, boys are so much easier to raise,” to which I always want to respond, “Clearly, you do not know my children.”

Why does this comment make me want to roll my eyes, groan madly, and pull out clumps of my post-baby head of already-molting hair? It’s a little conversational generality that people repeat because, I presume, they believe it to be true. It might be true. For them.

But I tend to get bristly when I hear it because (though I don’t think people intend it this way) it is pretty insulting. People can say lots of things about raising sons which honestly do not apply to my particular brood of boys. I dislike hearing such broad stereotypes, even if they are meant to paint my family life in complimentary terms. We simply don’t fit into that sort of precast mold. My sons are sensitive, funny, handsome, thoughtful, curious, caring, and sweet. They also have vivid personalities, wild tempers, extreme hang-ups, and unequivocal opinions about pretty much everything. I completely love them. But don’t tell me that raising them is some sort of bunny-hill version of parenting.

Take clothing for instance. This is supposedly one area where boys are known for “being flexible” and wowing their parents with a supremely easy-going attitude about wearing whatever those parents place in their closets, or so I hear. Jack’s pediatric gastroenterologist, a mother of three grown sons, learned I had four boys and began reminiscing about going to Mervyn’s in her kids’ younger years and bringing home piles of a) shirts and b) pants, which her kids apparently just compliantly and interchangeably wore. No fuss.

This is certainly not the case at my house. If I were to bring home piles of mom-selected clothing and present it to my children, this is what would happen: Henry would announce “Forget it. I’m not wearing that,” Jack would place the clothes either in the bathtub for a good soaking (and lots of excitement!) or sprinkle them around the backyard before stripping off his own clothes to add to the mix, and Charlie would obstinately refuse the new duds unless they featured a neon Lego superhero on a garish background. Fortunately, baby still wears whatever I put on him.

My eldest goes through multiple wardrobe changes per day. Between his school uniform and his pj’s, he is a veritable fashion show of skinny jeans, basketball shorts, graphic tees, and hoodies. He is quite the fashionista. But don’t try to influence his style or you will be met with an icy rebuke. Jack, who only wears comfort clothes, likewise changes constantly. He likes to engage in the recreational swapping of sweat pants for track pants all the live-long day. It’s good times for Jack and maddeningly laundry-producing for me. My four-year-old fears new clothes vehemently, which makes Sundays, family photo shoots, and the first day of school your basic nightmare.

Does any of this sound easier than dressing girls? I really can’t say, since I don’t have one of those. Shopping for girls appears, from my limited vantage point, to be a foray into an embarrassment of riches. It’s all cute! In the boys’ section it’s all skulls and crossbones and camouflage. Or dinosaurs driving tractors.

My boys are marvelously opinionated about what they wear and I have given up trying to control it much. We aren’t lacking for opinions or personality at our house, and the laundry never quits either. I’m really okay with all of this.

Just don’t feed me some line about how breezy it is raising boys unless you want to see my head start spinning around in circles.

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