Track and Field

 

There is no reason this should exist.  But there it was.  A monstrosity in wind-breaker, a 96% polyester nightmare, hidden among consignment store racks of second-hand Baby Gap.  It was mere days before Christmas and it seemed inconceivable that this little gem was not lovingly wrapped and waiting under someone’s tree.  Screw toys!  What every kid really wants for Christmas is the wardrobe of a sexually ambiguous P.E. teacher circa 1987. Right?  Of course they do.

I slyly took out my phone and snapped a photo for later, intending to flabbergast my husband with the tale of my discovery.  This was truly something rare; a thrift-store Sasquatch.  Photographic evidence was necessary to corroborate my story.  Thinking a snapshot was more than sufficient, I left empty-handed.  But it haunted me.

How…HOW…could I have left without purchasing this?!  The next day was Christmas Eve – I had to wait a full two days to return.  It was absolutely agony.  Ideas for next year’s fitness-themed Kramer holiday card filled my brain.  Do they make sweat bands in children’s sizes?  What is an optimal barbell weight for a two-year-old?  Where can I find a Sony S2 Sports Walkman in banana yellow?  Oh, this was happening.

At the crack of 10 am on December 26th, with $1.25 in hand, I returned to claim my bounty.  The ironic nature of my purchase was entirely lost on the unsuspecting clerk.

“Oh my!  A little jogging suit!”

“Yup, the little guy sure does love jogging.”

Seventy-five cents later (thanks to a post-holiday 50% off sale); it was part of our reality.  It has only come out a few times – mostly it’s just there, defying the laws of logic and good taste every time I venture to the bottom of my son’s dresser drawer.  It has come to be known simply as “the outfit”.  Though, if we really gave it some thought, I’m sure we could come up with a more fitting name.  Temptation in Teal?  Dodgeball Debonair?  The “Drop and Give Me 20, Mister!”?  We’ll keep working on it…

There is no reason this should exist.  And there is absolutely no reason I should be so pleased that it does.

Rock Out With Your Crocs Out

In my brief tenure as someone’s mother, I’ve uttered many phrases I had previously thought I never would.  From emphatic declarations regarding the color and consistency of another person’s fecal matter (almost always the kid’s, I promise) to heartfelt affirmations on the superior cargo capacity of mini-vans; I’ve said some things that would cause my pre-parenthood self to recoil in hipster-horror.  But the following words, spoken upon departure from an afternoon at the local swimming pool, unequivocally take the shame cake:

“Let’s put on your Crocs, honey.  It’s time to go.”

Sweet tap dancing cripes, who in the hell have I become?!

It seems slightly unreasonable that a shoe, any shoe, could inspire such rancor in a person, but I’ve been known to deliver epic diatribes on the general hideousness of these techni-color foam monstrosities.  Children who donned them were doomed, by no fault of their own, to a lifetime of insufferable dorkiness.  Adults who willingly chose them had completely given up on ever again being regarded as a sexual being.  They were an offense akin to mom-jeans.  The only Crocs enthusiasts to escape my ire were nurses and Mario Batali.  All those not administering tourniquets or cooking delicious pasta dishes were awarded my stink-faced judgment.

I was doggedly determined to remain an anti-Crocs household at all costs.  Until, that is, my mother alerted me of a package en route to our house; the contents of which included one pair of the devil’s footwear in a toddler’s size 6.  I attempted to protest, until one phrase managed to melt away all my shoe-elitist resolve, “But when they get dirty, you can just hose them off.”  I thought immediately of the closet full of adorable, expensive sneakers being systematically destroyed by the puddle-jumping whims of a two-year-old mess machine.  Soil the Crocs to save the Vans?  Okay, I was in.

And so the elicit package arrived.  I steeled myself and slowly opened the box, ready to face down the demon.  As promised, there they were; the murky blue of a freshly bruised shin.  And so I applied the off-duty clown shoes to my sweet angel’s heretofore unsullied feet.  And much to my chagrin, he was immediately smitten.  He merrily stomped about, stopping intermittently to admire his foam-clad tootsies.  Could my son be a closet dork?  The thought was too much to bear.  We had to road test these warlocks before I lost my nerve and buried them in the yard.

Outside I watched as he tromped through mud, crud and the odd piece of petrified dog crap.  It felt surprisingly liberating, not cringing every time he approached a potential shoe-annihilating landmine.  When playtime ended, I carefully removed the dirt plastered clogs and cranked the garden hose to 11.  As promised, all evidence of his the mud-fueled rampage washed down the driveway and I hung my head in shame.  Dear God, the dorks were right.

My name is Jeni, and my son wears Crocs.  It still feels slightly dirty to admit this, even though he’s been rocking them for the better part of the summer.  Add this to the list of broken promises, the “swore I would never”s, those brash declarations you make before you have kids and slowly, sneakily become a bizarre incarnation of your former self.  My name is Jeni, and my son wears Crocs.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and order 17 pairs of tiny Chuck Taylors in an attempt to restore order to the universe.

Sharp Dressed Man

Obvious statement alert:  I love my son.  Crazy, right?  No really, it’s true.  I do.  Every nuance of his boy-ness is utterly extraordinary to me.  Absolutely, why wouldn’t you smash that toy robot against the side of the bookshelf?  Yes, I too was wondering what that handful of mud would taste like!  Of course!  Raising a tiny dude has been absolutely fascinating in its foreignness.  Pass me a Tonka Truck, because I’m hooked.  That said, in the interest of full-disclosure; for the entirety of my pregnancy, I 100%, without question, wanted a girl.  I’d like to say it was because I grew up with only one sibling, a younger sister. Or because I did a short stint as a nanny for a dear friend’s two lovely daughters.  Hell, even back in the day when I was a card-carrying member of the babysitter’s club, my charges were always precocious little girls.  In my limited baby experience, I had less than zero experience with boys.  My longing for the familiar in the fish-out-of-water world of first time parenthood was reasonable enough.  But if I’m being completely honest, above anything else, it was all about the clothes.

 

I recall wandering through the baby section of my neighborhood Target in a daze, my belly only an hour before slathered in goo and wanded over to reveal I was harboring an itty bitty willy.  My attempt at retail therapy fell apart completely when I unwittingly wandered into a sea of pink ruffles.  Pint-sized Mary Janes?  Thanks but no thanks.  Impossibly tiny tutus?  Keep on walking.  I fought the urge to hurl myself atop a pile of gingham party dresses and weep as I felt my dress-up doll fantasy melting away.  But wait…is that a tiny grandpa cardigan?  A little denim jacket?  Wow, I didn’t even know they made fedoras that small!  All right then.  I think I can get in to this….

 

I had been completely unaware of the vast array of hipster classics sized for the diminutive gentleman.  Onesies emblazoned with musical iconography from Ziggy Stardust to Johnny Cash.  Before he even possesses awareness of his extremities, you can stuff those chubby little baby feet into a pair of Chuck Taylor sneakers.  Top the look off with a tiny motorcycle jacket (complete with superfluous zippers) and someone’s ready to go loft-hunting in Williamsburg!

 

But even with this array of  itty bitty fashionisto cuteness, I still noticed several disturbing trends. True atrocities onto baby-kind.  For instance, a vast selection of t-shirts boasting the child’s prowess with the fairer sex.  Eeeeeew!  Now, I’m no prude.  Farthest thing from it, actually.  But if you ever find me purchasing a onesie that reads “Daddy says I’m a MILF magnet”, know that I’ve lost my ever-loving mind and I require immediate and drastic psychiatric intervention.  Seriously, crank those electrodes to ‘Silvia Plath’.  Not that I doubt my adorable son’s ability to ensure my husband is perpetually knee-deep in playground skanks, but I don’t know if that’s where we’d like to spend our advertising dollars this quarter.  Gross.  There also seemed to be a disproportionate amount of nautically themed clothing for young boys; as if we’re raising a generation on tiny, effeminate sailors.  Now I enjoy the crisp ocean air as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean that I want to dress my son like a chorus singer from a community theater production of The H.M.S. Pinafore.  If my boy ever decided to take to the seas, my hope would be that he’d opt for the understated elegance of a tasteful navy and white stripe.  Or perhaps something with a little retro cache, a la The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  But pale yellow bloomers embroidered with baby blue anchors?  Sailor beware.

 

So here’s what I’ve learned:  beyond the fashion disasters that would have your wee man looking like a foppish dandy, old-timey baseball player, or Ed Hardy reject, there’s much fun to be had with your baby boy’s wardrobe.  Imagine someone took an issue of GQ and shrunk it to adorable proportions.  At times it’s nearly too cute to take.  And so I continue to spend the money that should be used for things like paying off my gargantuan student loans on expanding my son’s wardrobe.  Only occasionally do I feel that old longing for the pink and frilly.  But who knows, perhaps when we walk down that road again, the next child will be a girl.  For the sake of my credit card debt, I sort of hope not.  Besides, who would wear all these hand-me-down cardigans?