My kids needed pants.
They have pants.
They did not want to get new pants.
But they needed pants.
Some time ago, the athleisure wear trend – a generational demarcation if ever there was one – arrived my kids’ school, blurring the lines between comfort and slovenliness and fashion.
My kids embraced it all.
It puts me in a parental twitchy zone. I don’t love athleisure wear. Mostly because “athleisure” is a stupid word, but also because I have not-fond memories of teaching students who wore sweatpants and therefore spent a lot of their time playing, uh, pocket pool.
Additionally, there are too many names for athleisure bottoms: joggers, sweatpants, track pants. Each athleisure pants style I have to remember means I need to forget one Monkees lyric, and that’s not a trade I’m happy to make.
At the same time, I remember wanting to wear things that let me express my individuality like everyone else. You know, the same jeans as everyone else, and the same type of shirt, but in colors I liked. Complete conformity, but on my own terms. Unfortunately, my parents dressed me in a style that can only be described as “L.A. Law Meets a Different Season of L.A. Law”
I want my kids to be comfortable, which is why I returned all of the double-breasted spiky armor apparel I purchased for them on AwfulSlacksYou’llTwitchIn.com
My kids like the sweatpants that are form-fitting and gathered around the ankles – a little too much like long underwear for us to be ok with them wearing them to school.
They love the nylon ones, the ones that snag and look 50 years old after one washing.
They tolerate jeans, but given a choice they don’t wear them. That’s partially because my kids are hard to find jeans for., and partially because they aren’t as comfortable aas athleisure wear.
I wish there were easy-to-find fashion middle ground for kids (and adults): dressing right for the occasion and for comfort and with personal style. I think other countries do this much better than we.
So unable to become expats solely to get my kids to dress better for school, I suggested we go shopping for “nicer” track pants or joggers or running pants.
They were disinterested.
I tried to explain “dress for success” to them.
“Mary Kay had people get dressed ‘to the shoes’ in their business clothes before making phone calls! Being dressed for work or school helps set our own boundaries and expectations.”
They responded how you’d expect.
“No, we’re good.”
So I responded how you’d expect
“Get in the car.”
My husband and daughter came along. My husband would help them
pick out the type of pants that they want, guiding them towards certain cuts and materials. And price points, because sweatpants that look cheap can cost 100s of dollars and are one growth spurt away from becoming costume pirate pants.
In the car, I have deep thoughts over the sounds of Kidz Bop. Maybe the problem is that we’re too comfortable, we’re too concerned with ease, and yet we look to others’ outfits as a sign of their personality. A window into their soul that is sullied by expectation and 2% polyester.
I don’t know. I’m not French enough for this line of thought.
We decided we needed to fuel up before purchasing pants. Shopping with one child for an hour burns 40,000 calories; shopping with three children for an hour burns through gray matter and possibly the Earth’s mantle.
The kids voted for sandwiches. Sandwiches made in a restaurant using the same ingredients we have at home are apparently better than the ones I make. The exact same bags of chips are also better. I’d like to say that the only bonus is that I don’t have to make them or clean them up but (a) I do have to clean up and (b) any energy I save not making sandwiches is spent making sure my children aren’t on a mission to convince the community we’ve never been in public before.
My husband and I still think that the kids are little enough that we don’t have to order our own meals and eat their leftovers. We forget our kids are 9 and 5, growing, and territorial. I asked my daughter for a Sun Chip.
She stuck her nose in the bag and handed me the smallest chip.
Winter outerwear retrieved from under the table, and all gross surfaces sufficiently touched, we left the sandwich place and headed next door to the local department store.
As the kids trudged infuriatingly slow and in the exact center of the parking lot, they shared ther indictment of the process. “Trying on pants takes forever. Last time Dad made us try on all the pants.”
All the pants. I pictured them coming out of a dressing room wearing seersucker pants, glaring at my husband.
“Try on a few of the ones you like. Then we can just get similar colors and cuts.”
“Wait, what? I don’t get it.” they were confused as to how this magic shopping would happen and wanted a TedTalk on the subject.
“Just get in the store.”
We divided and conquered – I would take the girl for some essentials and my husband would take the boys in case words like “inseam” or “dress left” came up. I don’t even know if that’s a thing with athleisure.
My daughter knew what she wanted: “NOT JEANS,” despite the fact that there were very soft ones, very sparkly ones, very cute ones, very pink ones, and ones that were jeggings, a term that evokes in me the same visceral feeling as the word “slacks” evokes in my sons and the word “moist” evokes in most humans.
We finally arrived at the leggings zone. It took her 38 seconds to pick four pairs of leggings, two shirts, and one long-sleeved dress (because she’s been wanting one) and then another 800 hours to browse and touch and comment on every other item.
One of my sons walked by. My heart leapt – did he want me to explore the denim section? Perhaps some khakis? Ooh – a cardigan?
“Hey!” I called, trying to get his attention while keeping an eye on my daughter who is a little too fearless and wander-y in public places. Also, she tends to get tired and fall asleep in a display rack of microfiber blankets.
He jumped. “Oh, hi!”
“Were you looking for us?”
“Uh, no, I just got lost.”
This is typical. The boy could be standing still next to his father and the next second “be lost” because he doesn’t realize he wanders off.
He starts describing the 20 pairs of pants they are considering, and oh, how I wish I were running on the energy of more than one Sun Chip.
Daughter and I walked boy back to where his father was just finishing up with other son. They’d picked out five pairs of athleisure pants. No one was crying. All children accounted for. Everything done in about ten minutes.
We triumphantly marched to checkout. I’m thinking we conquered this infintessimally small mountain with panache. Until we were stuck behind someone who was trying to find a “Save 32 cents!” coupon on her phone, and my children started looking around.
We were flanked by displays of high-end chocolate, which my kids loudly described to me as though I wasn’t standing right there. “Mom! They have mint!”
“Yup. Inside voices, please.”
“Mom! They have white chocolate raspberry!”
“Yum.” We were attracting attention, and not the good kind that usually leads to sympathetic looks or people letting us go ahead of them in line just to get rid of us.
“You LOVE chocolate, Mom.”
I wasn’t sure why they spoke to me right out of a page of Dick and Jane books. See chocolate. Yell to mom about chocolate. “Chocolate, Mom, chocolate!” See Mom run for the exit, mortified.
Finally, we were up to the register. We purchased all the pants. And the leggings. And the shirts. And not the chocolates, although my children found that the appropriate topic of ear-splitting wonder for the next three hours.
The next morning, I pulled on my usual jeans and sweater and tried to hustle the kids along so that we’d get to school before lunch period.
The boys emerged from their room wearing their old, snagged, flood-length nylon pants.
“The new clothes are too nice. We don’t want to ruin them.”
I sent them back to change.
My daughter came out wearing all her new clothes. Four pairs of leggings, two shirts, and a long-sleeved dress. She looked like she was wearing one of those inflatable sumo wresting costumes.
“It works, right?” she asked.
Without a word, I took them to school, where they asked me to drop them off around the corner.
“Why?” Usually these kids would be thrilled if I plowed the SUV through the school wall like the Kool Aid man.
“Well, you know, you’re not exactly dressed nicely,”
They might have a point. Perhaps I tomorrow I shall succumb to the siren call of athleisure wear in a way that the cast of L.A. Law would approve of.