If the Shirt Fits...

I know teachers aren’t fazed by much that kids come up with. If they’ve been teachers for any length of time, they’ve probably seen just about everything there is to see. Be that as it may, I still feel a twinge when I realize I’ve sent my daughter off to school without brushing her hair. For the third day in a row. To counter this, I’m thinking of coming up with a new line of t-shirts, or possibly stickers that could be stuck on kids without their knowledge, with explanations that will cover for me on days when I’m sure the teacher is compiling notes to pass along to CPS, and it looks like today’s transgressions might seal the deal.

The first one in my line is for my daughter and others like her. It will say “I refuse to let my parents brush my hair.” This will go a long way toward explaining the snarls and mats. Beyond hating to have her hair brushed, my daughter loves hats and hoods. She won a polyester hat (at the fucking carnival) that looks like the face of a cow, with two long flaps that hang down over her ears. She wears this hat day and night. She sleeps in it, she wears it to school. The only reason she takes it off is for baths, and then under protest, so you can bet taking it off so I can brush her hair isn’t a priority. Plus wearing a hat or hood causes hair to snarl up and get ratty, and since she won’t let me brush it, that just makes things worse.

The next one will also be for my daughter, but also for slightly younger kids. We’ve all seen kids in outfits that were clearly of their own design and consist of Ninjago pajamas, a tutu and three winter scarves (and maybe a hat that looks like the face of a cow) or whatever. Or little girls who insist on wearing their Snow White dresses everywhere, including the pool. But not all adults realize that these outfits stem from equal parts stubbornness (on the part of the child), and exhaustion and a reluctant acceptance that defeat is the only option (on the part of the parent). While it might be a challenge to get them to put them on, for these kids I would offer a shirt that reads “My mother thinks this outfit is as strange as you do.” They’d have to be in fantastic patterns or insane colors so that kids would be inclined to include them in their sartorial repertoire. I suspect this would also be a big seller in a large sticker that could be stuck on their backs as they were walking out the door (“Hurry along, little Kyndle, we don’t want to be late” the parent would say, placing a sticker-covered hand gently between their shoulder blades).

Another one for younger kids that I wish I’d had when my children were small will be for those times when their outfit is bizarre or inappropriate, but not because of the ramrod will of a four year old determined to wear his or her “favorite shirt” for the 15th day in a row. This is for those times when a child is dressed by his or her father, and that father happens to be one of “those” fathers. I don’t want to generalize—not all fathers have strange ideas about what constitutes an “outfit.” Some recognize that a child who is wearing a bathing suit and mittens is not a child who is wearing an ensemble fit for an audience with the Queen (or even a day at preschool), even if they do happen to be wearing matching socks. I’m fairly sure that 80% of the time my husband was in charge of dressing our children they were decently covered in something that didn’t look like he’d upended the dirty clothes hamper over their heads and called it a day. But for those days that missed the mark, I would have liked to be able to have them walk around with the disclaimer, “My daddy dressed me today” somewhere on their person.

Beyond their appearance, I worry about the things that might come out of my kids’ mouths. I am no saint when it comes to my language, I freely admit this. I have been known to describe myself as sounding like a drunk longshoreman with Tourette’s syndrome (note: I am not a longshoreman, and I have not been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome). As you may have noticed, I use the word “fuck” the way the English language uses the letter “e” (which is to say, often, and with enthusiasm). But I don’t talk like that in front of my children. My children might occasionally hear, “What the hell is going on here?” or “Go brush your damn teeth right now!” But these are in extreme circumstances, like when my oldest son knocked out his little sister’s front tooth that wasn’t ready to come out and a Niagara Falls of blood was the result, or when I’ve sent them to brush their teeth five times and they’ve lied to me all five times. Then, yes, I use a mild swear word (mild: damn, hell, bastard; serious: shit, fuck, asshole).

But apparently they hear this sort of thing somewhere. I assume from kids who have older siblings. That’s where I picked up all my cuss words. Thank goodness for Ashely Templeton whose older sister taught her all the bad words, and she taught them to me. As we all know, that’s where that kind of thing often comes from, even when they’re very young. When my daughter was a toddler, there was another girl in her room at daycare who had a 19 year old brother. When nap time rolled around, and she didn’t feel like napping, she was known to sit on her mat and yell, “Fuckin’ bullshit! Fuckin’ bullshit!” in protest. I’m fairly confident her mother wasn’t the source that.

And sometimes it’s not even swear words, but potty stuff or goofy stuff. One of my twins has been calling his siblings “nose hair” in fits of frustration (“No, that’s MINE! Give it back, nose hair!”). My daughter went through a phase where she called everything “suckers.” (“Oh look I dropped those suckers. I better pick those suckers up.”)

However, as a parent, I never want the school staff to think they incorporate those words into their vocabularies because of exposure to them at home. So I would sell a shirt that said, “My mother doesn’t know where I pick these things up either.” An alternative for kids with older siblings would say, “I get my vocabulary from my older brother/sister.” That one’s a little sketchy, I suppose, because the teachers may simply assume that the older sibling is learning from the parents, and passing it on. Still, I’m hoping the teachers assume that the older kid picked this sort of thing up on the streets and taught it to the younger kids, since that's probably the reality.

So that’s my idea for a kids’ clothing line. I think it’s highly functional, and that parents would benefit from it. As I said, a few of them would need to be offered in sticker form as well as on shirts. They’d make great birthday presents (for the parents’ birthdays, of course), and I bet they’d be hot for back to school. Then I could go to parent/teacher conferences and not feel like I need to spend the first ten minutes explaining why my daughter’s hair looks like she was fathered by a reggae singer, and that her gutter mouth is not my fucking fault.


Michelle said...

HAHAHA..this is actually a brilliant idea!!

My kids are mostly grown, so it's not a worry for me anymore, but I could have used this at one time.

Tracy said...

I'm sure as my kids get older I'll have a need to expand the line. I'm sure one that says something like, "Yes, I am this big an asshole at home," will prove invaluable.

Unknown said...

Put me down for five. Love the kid yelling fucking bullshit on the mat at nap time. I try not to curse at or in front of my kids, but I can't say I'm always successful. I have a worse mouth than my husband, but, man, did he go off on Crazy this week, & I always think it's funny when he starts freaking on the kids (b/c it so rarely happens). Can't say Crazy didn't deserve it.

Also: http://onefunnymotha.com/2012/09/12/back-to-school-blues-its-not-what-you-think-it-is/

Tracy said...

Yeah, I'm the one who swears most in our household too. Although he can keep up with me if he's provoked! He's also the calmer of the two of us, mostly because I'm neurotic and uptight, and he's not.