October 26, 2006

If the pants fit

Reading Lisa's post this morning made me think of all the family and cultural pressures that can cause me to feel like a good parent or bad parent. I've found it hard work to sort out which of those pressures are negative, and should be ignored, and which might spur me to be a better parent. Too often, I think it's easy to respond to societal pressure with a vague guilt that can be more destructive than helpful. Some types of guilt I am able to ignore, but others are more difficult.

I used to think I was good at avoiding the pressures of a consumeristic culture: I would buy my children only the clothes they really needed, making good use of hand-me-downs from cousins and garage sale items. My kids don't have need to dress up very often, but usually I made sure that each of them owned a pair of black pants and one white dress shirt, the standard uniform for school band and choir concerts. Well, actually, Boy in Black's dress shirt was black instead of white, but the band director seemed to be okay with that. The school concert outfit could also be worn for an unexpected funeral or for end-of-the year award ceremonies.

Then in tenth grade, Boy in Black made his Confirmation, a big church ceremony that kids dress up for. It was March, but I knew that hanging in his closet were the black pants and black shirt he had worn to his concert in December. My husband is pretty good about keeping up with the laundry, so I knew they would be clean and not crumpled at the bottom of the hamper. I was confident that we were prepared for the occasion, and I didn't need to go buy him anything.

About half an hour before the Confirmation ceremony, Boy in Black went upstairs to change and then came back down with the awful news: "Hey, Mom. These don't fit me anymore."

I looked at him in horror. Even though Boy in Black is a skinny kid, the black pants were ridiculously tight. And I could see several inches of his white socks. Boy in Black pulled the pants up higher and began strutting around the room; his siblings thought it was funny.

Had he grown that much in just three months? Well, I guess he had. I knew he had grown nine inches between eighth and ninth grade – why I hadn't I realized how fast he was growing?

We had to be at the church in fifteen minutes. What were we supposed to do? These were the only dress pants that the kid owned. I thought of Neighbor Family – I've often borrowed clothes from their kids and vice versa – but unfortunately Boy in Black is older than their two boys and taller. I thought of my sister, but she just has three skinny girls. We looked through my husband's clothes, but at that point in time, he was still way taller than Boy in Black – and not as skinny as a tenth grader either. There was not time to go out and buy him a pair of pants.

My solution was for Boy in Black to wear his casual pants, the baggy zip-off pants he wears every day, but he ignored my idea and opted to go the dressed-up route. I gave him a pair of black socks so that the glaring white socks would not advertise so much how short the pants were. So he wore the ridiculously small pants, with me cringing.

I kept saying things like, "Oh, I should have thought to have you try these on," and he kept saying, "It's okay. I don't care how they look."

Throughout the ceremony, I winced every time the Confirmation candidates had to stand up at the altar. Twelve kids in nice outfits that fit them, and Boy in Black in his ridiculously small pants. I kept telling myself that it shouldn't bother me – it's just clothes, after all, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was a terrible parent because my son did not have pants that fit him. I think my husband was feeling much the same way, despite the reassuring things he kept saying about how the pants really didn't look that bad. I gave whispered explanations to my parents and mother-in-law, who to their credit, just kept saying positive things about how Boy in Black was growing so fast.

So I spent the whole ceremony beating myself up for being a terrible mother who hadn't bothered to check to see if her son had pants to wear to some important rite-of-passage ceremony. My husband pointed out that it was silly to for me to feel so responsible. He hadn't checked the pants either, and for that matter, Boy in Black was plenty old enough to be responsible for his own clothing. Naturally I ignored the logic of this.

Finally, the ceremony was over, and we all came back to our house for food and cake. I felt relieved when Boy in Black changed out of the black pants and appeared in his normal casual clothes. He handed me the pants. As I looked at them, something on the label caught my attention.

That label looked familiar. These were my pants, the black pants I wear when I have to present at a conference. No wonder they didn't fit him. A sudden thought crossed my mind. I ran up to Boy in Black's closet, which is stuffed with games and toys and very few clothes. There, on a hanger, looking almost brand new, were his black pants. Which would have fit him perfectly.

31 comments:

Rhonda said...

I very much needed to laugh this morning--thank you!

Flavia said...

What a great story!

My partner, who at 6'4'' is nearly a foot taller than I am (and is also, you know, male and broad-shouldered and everything) *continually* tries to put on my black overcoat in the winter instead of his own. He's actually walked out of places in it, not realizing how tiny and ridiculous and ill-fitting what he has on is.

ppolarbear said...

hilarious. well, probably not hilarious when you're the mom, but it made me laugh.

betty said...

oh that's a funny story!

and boy in black seems so laid back! my brothers would have totally lost it if this happened. totally. lost it.

daufiero said...

great post!

Made me think of what my mother-in-law said to me, regarding my husband's rumpled look. "I'm sorry, but people will judge you, based on how he looks."

Once they meet me, they'll know they're right. About the laundry at least.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

This story made me cry, and laugh, and cry again--I'm still crying. Stuff like this happens to me all the time--and I am the one who feels terribly guilty and supset. So glad your son and husband took it so well, even if you did not.

Murphy does like to lob us a curve ball occasionally! More than occasionally in my case.

Loren said...

Thanks. I needed a laugh today.

Luckily, I'm the father and never had to worry about such things.

In fact, it's always ME that the kids had to apologize for.

It's been so long since I wore good slacks that I forgot they needed to go to the drycleaners and put them in the washk.

KathyR said...

What a great twist!

The rest of the story sounds like what goes on around here every time Matt needs to dress up. I can't keep the boy in pants that fit.

Sara said...

I love how good natured your kids are. To many teenagers such a situation could develop into a life-threatening case of embarassment.

And I love the surprise ending!

Camera Obscura said...

We were on a trip to see family three states away, and Husband did not check blue jean labels very carefully before handing kids clothing out of a suitcase. Daughter spent the day occasionally stepping on the hems of her jeans for no apparent reason... The next day, #1-Son asked queriously where his other pair of jeans was? We knew we'd packed the right number. Turns out his father had handed a pair of his jeans to his baby sister, and since he was wearing boys slims and she was heading for chubby-ville, they fit her fanny (albeit a little too tightly) and no one noticed that they weren't hers. Unfortunately, her now-spare pair were too big through the waist and too short for him. Dirty-jeans city. He was not pleased, and quite vocal about it.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Hee. I so wasn't expecting that at the end!

Songbird said...

What a great story!
Enouragement for downcast mothers everywhere, thank you.

Shelly said...

Ha ha ha ha!! That was great, jo(e).

Yankee, Transferred said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

I love that punch line!

Krista said...

That is one funny, funny story! I wasn't expecting the ending either. But I must say that if your skinny boy can fit into your pants, you must be in good shape! Also it goes to show how wasteful our berating ourselves really is!

listmaker said...

Great story! And thanks for the reminder; I'd better go check RT's black pants before his next concert.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

NINE inches! My god! He must've been the most uncoordinated kid during that year.

and I was surprised to hear that you ever doubt your parenting, you seem so wise : )

kathy a said...

sweet vindication! this is a very funny story.

we've had a few clothing emergencies ourselves, including a genuine "oops, son outgrew the pants" situation. and a "whoops, daughter lost the blazer she needs right now? oh, well, her brother's is only 3 sizes too big, it'll do." my dad managed to fly up to my wedding without his dress pants, but fortunately we had time to shop.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's great!

Red Rollerskate said...

Doh! Just try not to kick yourself! It happens. :)

BeachMama said...

That is hilarious! And the fact that he wore them, happy to be dressed up for the day, shows how you have taught him that it isn't the clothes that make the man.

Good for him, and now you have a hilarious story to tell.

ccw said...

I didn't see that coming. What a great story!

I love that he wore the short pants without issue. What a wonderful young man.

halloweenlover said...

Oh my goodness, this made me laugh out loud! I can't believe he wore YOUR PANTS! What a nut!

Well, at least you can feel confident that your parenting prowess is intact, right? I'm sure he looked really good, and I'm sure no one noticed.

timna said...

What a riot.

ben t. wears almond joy's stuff all the time -- even the flared pants (the underarmor stuff to stay warm), but when she wore his shoes to school and he was stuck with sandals or slippers or cleats we had a problem. he wore my gym shoes that day.

purple_kangaroo said...

Oh, I feel bad for laughing, but this was hilarious.

Laura said...

That's hilarious!

Psycho Kitty said...

And here, I think, is where you proved your mettle--what happened *then*? Were you able to laugh it off and enjoy the rest of the evening, or did that stress you out even more?

Suzanne said...

If you can bear one more "great story" comment, well, here goes: Great story! How cool that your son didn't care at all.

jo(e) said...

Psycho Kitty: Oh, I carried the pants downstairs and told everyone the story. I knew they would find it funny.

It was just so ridiculous that I had to laugh about it.

Kathryn said...

Roll on springtime! Stories like this are among the many reasons I'm so looking forward to meeting irl...In this household, there wouldn't have been the final denouement. Most of Hugger Steward's clothes don't fit more often than they do,- but he's blissfully oblivious, so I try to be the same!