Extra Pulp: Junior Fashionistas

The crowds! The cost! The inappropriate slogans! Clothes shopping may never be in fashion for this wife and mom.

David Vallejo

I’ve never been much of a shopper. I don’t like sitting in traffic, sifting through crowded clothing racks, standing in line, or getting followed through the mall by the Dead Sea cosmetics people. But the number one reason I hate to shop is because spending money makes me uncomfortable. As the mother of two sons, I now have to shop for three. My husband, who loves to shop, owns more shoes and clothes than I do, but I’m certainly not sending him to the store. I don’t even want to think about that credit card bill.

I’m a planner in most every aspect of my life except when it comes to shopping. When I sent my oldest, Anders, to daycare for the first time, it never occurred to me to send him in shoes—he was months from walking. But when they sent a note home informing me shoes were required, I scrambled to the store.

Winter catches me off guard every year. When the temperature drops for the first time, I realize none of the pants or shirts the boys wore last year fit. (One exceptionally cool morning, my friend’s son asked to wear “shorts with legs.” She couldn’t believe they had lived in Orlando so long he actually forgot the word “pants.”)

When the boys were little, I dressed them the Southern way in smocked gowns, jon jons, knee-highs and Keds. When we moved from Alabama to Celebration with its mix of residents from all over, the toddlers were already wearing Air Jordans and skinny jeans. On the playground, families often mistook William for a girl, despite the obviously masculine firetrucks on his darling little romper.

So I headed out to a few big-box stores for “boy” attire. Gone were soft and sweet baby clothes and in were loud and obnoxious T-shirts. Stamped across every single garment were sayings like “Crib Hair Don’t Care” and “Taco ’Bout Adorable.” Others completely crossed the line into inappropriate with “I Drink Until I Pass Out” and “Daddy’s Wing Man.”

For a while, I just let the kids dress themselves. Anders went through a phase of wearing light-up Toy Story cowboy boots and his bicycle helmet, even when we hadn’t brought along his bike. William loved donning his Batman suit for trips to Publix, where kind shoppers often played along about needing a superhero.

Today, my little guys are 6 and 8. Anders could not care less about his clothes, where William is already a brand-conscious kindergartner, requesting Under Armour and Nike. When I bought knock-off polos for school, he complained. “These are not cool! There’s no symbol on the front!”

I try to shop local and never with the kids if I can help it. The few times we’ve gone together, they’ve played hide-and-seek in the racks, pawed expensive items or touched every single tchotchke in the checkout line. I’m convinced one sign in a toy store was written especially for us: “Children who misbehave will be given an espresso and a kitten.”

One afternoon I was forced to take Anders shopping. We were on our way to meet some friends at Chuck E. Cheese’s when he spilled an entire drink on his shirt. If we went home to change, we’d miss the playdate, so I thought we’d pop into Old Navy. When we stepped inside, I realized there’s no such thing as a quick trip to Old Navy. We walked through the 16,000-square-foot store to reach the children’s clothes in the back. On tables overflowing with clothing, I dug through messy piles for his size. Finally, we found a $7 shirt—free of any bad puns—and rushed to check out only to discover 14 people already waiting.

Recently, our family of four took a rare trip to the mall to shop for nice clothes for the boys to wear to my cousin’s wedding. Anders quickly lost interest after the escalator ride, but William absolutely loved the shopping experience. He strolled around thoughtfully, carefully picking out various items. After trying them on, he sauntered in front of the mirror, admiring the way he looked in his blue blazer and Ralph Lauren button-down. Back in the dressing room, he was taking a while. Just as we were about to check on him, he emerged with all the clothing neatly back on the hangers. He walked to the checkout counter, where he gently placed his new wedding outfit along with several other selections. “I’d like these, please,” he told the cashier.

How adorable is that? I thought to myself. But oh my, he’s going to be expensive.

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