I wrote this when I was pregnant with Alrik two-plus years ago and never hit "publish," I guess afraid my pickiness about clothing would come across wrong. I'm feeling willing to take the chance now that it will just spark some interesting discussions.
I've been sorting through boxes of Mikko's baby things, trying to find (a) newborn clothes and diaper covers and (b) homebirth supplies. I've been piling things by size, and Mikko has been trying to help me, which has been not as helpful as he intends. "No! Not in that pile, Mama. Here, I do it right."
I'm astonished at how many of his baby clothes I don't like.
|Unsnapped one-pieces made for good |
boxing robes for our bruiser.
Don't get me wrong — those are all lovely colors, in moderation. But I lean toward vibrant clothes for kids, and the pastels just look insipid to me.
And beyond the colors are the cuts. We got a lot of onesies and other one-pieces. I know people think onesies are the awesomest thing ever — except that we don't. I was doing elimination communication AND cloth diapering a baby who peed every five minutes (no exaggeration). PLUS, we had a huge baby who was wearing diapers that were on the bulky side — we could barely ever get the snaps closed in the first place, much less keep them that way. I intuited that we would need separates; I put several examples of kimono-style t-shirts and elastic-waist pants on our baby registry and pleaded in the comments that these would be "so convenient!" No one took the hint.
|I mean, seriously. Is this |
flattering anyone's shape?
Plus? I can do without chicks and puppies and ducks being scattered over every piece of baby clothing. Just my own preference there.
But, gosh, I sound picky, don't I? Clearly I am. And yet I swallowed it all down, and Mikko wore every dang one of the outfits gifted to him. Even the ones that were impractical, or sent too late to fit properly, or that I hated on sight. (Well, OK, the slippery Elmo tracksuit from a distant friend of his parents went straight out the door, but other than that!)
Despite our asking around, we got no hand-me-downs. All our friends hadn't had kids yet (we were like brave pioneers!), and all the people we knew with kids weren't close enough to us to offer their discards, even though I would gladly have accepted them.
So all the clothes we had for Mikko were brand new, and they were all gifts, and I felt bad rejecting any of them. I felt an obligation to take a picture in any outfit we received, so we could share it with our family as proof of how much we appreciated the gift. Even if we didn't.
|A colorful outfit we picked out, |
head to diaper to leg warmers to toe.
We weren't financially well off then, for sure, so another factor was that we couldn't afford to look a gift horse in the mouth — or could we? I kept thinking, clothing is one of the cheapest things you can buy for a kid, if you just go to Goodwill. You can get shirts for 50 cents, for crying out loud. You can get them even cheaper if you go to the Goodwill Outlet where you buy by the pound. You can also find (I have) a ton of deals on eBay on gently used and still super cute name-brand clothing. I would much rather have had our close family members hold off on the clothing and devote that same amount of money toward a woven wrap for us, for instance — but, of course, a gift is a gift, not an obligation.
In fact, I did persuade my mom to transfer her desire to buy us a crib into buying us an ERGO baby carrier instead, and she was so, so, so unimpressed with her gift. Even when I showed her in person how much we loved it. Even when I posted ample pictures of us using it. Even when I sent her a magazine clipping saying it was the "hot new carrier." Even though I still use it today, with my three-year-old. Nope, crib was what she wanted, and we spoiled her fun.
But I think clothing is even more fun for gift givers. Because that thrill we received at dressing our own son is the vicarious thrill of all the gift givers, too — that they're choosing what this child will look like. And, for our closest relatives, it's hard not to read a strong element of control into that. The yellow came almost exclusively from Sam's mother, for instance, whose favorite color is — wait for it — yellow. We were sorting through Mikko's summer clothes recently and found that he had something like eight pairs of navy blue shorts. For Seattle. Where it's shorts weather for a few months during the daytime, if we're lucky. Guess what my mom's favorite neutral is. Guess how many times my mom's complained to me that it's "so hard" to find navy shoes or navy purses. Hmm. Both moms have vetoed my attraction to dressing a baby in anything brown — I suppose because they don't like it.
|Apparently there IS crying in baseball.|
Boy = sports. Of course.
Which means, of course, that we were controlling (or trying to control) how he looked just as much as they were.
I am actually glad now that Mikko has opinions about what he wears. He doesn't do too much of the shopping for clothes, just some — but he's learned where all his clothes are stored. He'll go to the closet in the morning and hem and haw over which color he wants to wear. He'll go to the shelf with his pants and choose between "comfy pants" (fleece pull-ons) or overalls (another favorite) — or both. I love respecting his opinions on these things, and hope clothing never becomes a battle between us as he grows. (If it does, I'm going to have to assume it's because of my own hangups, not his.)
My mom was such a fan of navy that I wasn't allowed to wear black until high school, when I got my own job and therefore my own spending money. That's when I discovered the delight of black as a neutral. Why on earth had I been kept from it for so long?
With this next baby, I have a not-so-secret (now) desire to toss all the baby clothes we got as gifts for Mikko and start fresh. I could consign them all and use the credit there to buy what we actually want. I have an equally not-so-secret desire that it will be a girl and we'll be "justified" in doing so. Although, that worries me as well, because that will open the floodgates of relatives sending us pink and flowery things, I'm sure. If we have another boy, maybe no one will bother.
I'm saying this from a place of privilege, though. We are financially stable now — even, dare I say it, comfortable. I can afford to be cavalier about thumbing my nose at gifts of clothing and insisting on buying based on our own preferences. I can even buy new at actual stores instead of only secondhand. I can make some of the clothing myself, as a hobby and not as a need. Not everyone — not most people — have those luxuries.
So, I dither. I've gotten rid of most of the clothing that was functionally unacceptable (too many snaps and zippers, needs to be ironed — hello!), anything I really couldn't stand (masculinizing messages), but kept a lot that was on the bubble. I've definitely kept any gifts of clothing I did really enjoy, and absolutely anything that was made especially for him by a loved one. Then again, I do like the look of handmade clothing.
I just want your take: Do you enjoy choosing your children's clothes? Some of this will depend on the age of your children, but do you see it as a privilege, a necessity, a joy, a responsibility? How can we dress our children yet retain our belief in their independence and respect their own preferences as they grow? (Or, to be honest, even when they're babies — snapping up all those crotch snaps every time we changed him would have been intolerable for Mikko, as was dressing him in anything too fancy and scratchy.) How grateful are you to receive clothing from other people? Do you ever wish you could choose everything yourself?
|My preference: Happy kids in happy bright colors!|
Addendum: I found that onesies and one-pieces were more useable with Alrik since he wasn't quite so picky or prolific about peeing. They also looked more flattering on him since he's a bitty thing. So I'm sure some of this is on a kid-by-kid basis. But I was super stoked to get bags of hand-me-downs from a local family with similar fashion taste, as well as the opportunity to go shopping *with* my mother-in-law to pick out some of the patterns and colors I relish. Very few people gave us clothes for this child, probably because he was the second and another boy, and I've greatly enjoyed the clear go-ahead from the universe to outfit him myself — colorfully!
|I'm still working on the shoes, though.|