(1) I’m hip.
(2) I’m with it.
(3) Dakka, dakka, dakka, dakka, oh!
(If you don’t get that reference, don’t worry about it too much. The Hubster says I’m pitiful at impersonations, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my failures in that area apply to my blogging voice, too. It’s Dr. Evil, from Austin Powers.)
The time had come to take the boys school clothes shopping. My boys are nine and eleven years old, and are basically the coolest, smartest, sweetest boys on the planet. Seriously. If you have girls in that age group and happen to have two brain cells to rub together you should contact me immediately about arranged pen-palling. (Arranged dating comes later; arranged marriages will be considered after college.)
Up until now, dressing my boys has been a fairly simple task. I pick out what I think is cool, show it to them, and they say, “Yeah, whatever, Mom. That’s great. Thanks.” This is what I expected last week when I took them shopping. This is not what I got.
We’re in the men’s clothing section at Target. Took is babbling to herself in the cart. SweetZ is hiding under the clothes racks, giggling. I’m holding a t-shirt up, trying to be okay with the fact that my oldest son wears men’s sizes now. It’s a jagged pill to swallow – my baby, the child who taught me how to be a mom and to love doing it, is growing up WAY faster than I’d like him to.
I force myself to focus on the shirt. It’s blue-and-green striped with a normal round collar. WillyJ looks at it for a moment, then shrugs. Hm, I think. Not his thing. Okay. I pick up another one, just a plain black one. He squinches his nose. Hm, I think again. Maybe I’m off; maybe he wants one with graphics on it. Against my better judgement, I pick up a shirt with video-game characters on it (character t’s make me feel queasy) and pray he doesn’t like it. I cock an eyebrow at VV Mike, who is watching this exchange with a grin on his face. He wiggles his brows.
Thank heavens, Willy doesn’t like it. But we’re still sans any new shirts. Dude. Problemo.
“Okay,” I tell him. “Tell you what. You go pick out three shirts you like and bring them back to me.”
“Sounds good,” he says, and trots off. While he’s gone I feed the cranky Took some applesauce and fish SweetZ out of the middle of a clothing rack. Willy returns, three t-shirts in hand:
One is blue-and-green striped with a v-neck. One is plain red. One is grey with an Autobot symbol on the front.
“Oh, come on,” I say, holding them up. “These are exactly like the ones I picked out.”
“No, they’re not,” he answers, taking them from me, holding them up one at a time. “V-neck, red, and Autobots – not Minecraft.”
The Took screeches. I hand her a graham cracker. In my peripheral, I see SweetZ sneak off into another clothing rack. VV Mike is giggling like my exchange with his brother is the funniest thing he’s ever heard.
“Your turn next, dude,” I tell him as Willy tosses his new shirts in the cart. The giggles stop. We round up SweetZ and walk to the boys section. I try not to think about how this will probably be the last year that I shop in boy’s sizes for him.
I start hunting through shirts, holding them up for VV to see. At first he just smiles. After the third shirt is rejected I ask him, “Really?” His answer? A quick giggle. I find another shirt and hold it up, thinking, Why is this so hard? They’re just t-shirts! His giggle grows a little more. “What about this one?” He turns away slightly; his shoulders are shaking; he’s trying to hold in the noise. I look at WillyJ, whose face has grown tomato red with the effort of keeping his laughter in.
“Alright,” I say, fishing through the diaper bag with one hand. Took is fussing and binkies sink to the bottom like a cat tied to a brick. “Spill it. What’s so funny?”
VV turns around and looks at his brother, eyebrows raised. Willy shakes his head ‘no’ – DON’T TELL HER.
“What?” I demand. “You have to tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing!” Willy says. VV burst out laughing, full-on belly laughing.
“Mom,” he says, hand across his stomach like he’s afraid his gut is going to bust open, he’s laughing so hard. “Mom, you pick out really ugly shirts.”
“What?” My hands are on my hips now. “No I don’t. I have good taste in clothes.” And I have the Pinterest boards to prove it.
Willy is tight-lipped, looking at the ground, his head shaking ‘no’ in the tiniest way possible.
“Well maybe,” Viggo says, “Maybe for people your age you do.”
Willy lets out a snort. Took throws what’s left of her graham cracker out of the cart. I hear SweetZ calling from somewhere to my left, Mommy! Come find me!
“Do you think so, too?” I ask, looking at my first-born.
“Well,” he says, ever the diplomat. “Let’s just say, if you decide to go clothes shopping for me, I hope you always bring me along.”
VV Mike looks at his brother. They communicate silently, like they’ve always been able to do, and suddenly they’re both laughing so hard and so loudly that people are stopping to look at us. Took looks at her brother with alarm and then gets it – something terribly funny has happened – and starts doing her baby fake-laugh (haHA, haHA, haHA), and SweetZ comes out of hiding and decides to put on a ballet/modern dance recital right there (remember, people are already staring, it’s a built-in audience),
and in that moment I realize,
I have become my mother. I am loved – fiercely, sweetly loved – but the clothes I pick out are no longer cool. So far from cool, in fact, it’s laughable. The thought hits me as hilarious, and now I’m laughing alongside the rest of them. SweetZ brings her recital to a close and drops into a deep, not-so-graceful curtsey.
“Okay,” I say. “Toss those shirts in the cart.”
“Mom,” SweetZ says, tugging on my (apparently, hideously ugly) shirt, “Can we get milkshakes? Ballerinas drink milkshakes. Banana ones.”
“You bet,” I answer, ruffling her hair, trying not to notice how much she’s grown this summer; trying not to think about the inevitable day when I pick out her clothes and she falls over laughing.
Oh, you know what? Screw it. Let them laugh, and I’ll laugh with them. Because that is how life goes: we grow and stretch and stumble and change, and if you can’t laugh your way through that process, you’ll be a bitter old biddy by the end of your days. I don’t want to be bitter.
I want to laugh.