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.

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?

Plywood Jungle

As I become increasingly familiar with the special brand of insanity that is toddler behavior, I try my best to abide by a “judge not, lest ye be…” attitude toward others’ parenting styles.  Most of the time.  Okay, some of the time.  Hey, I’m working on it, okay?!  I truly have no room to cast aspersions, given my own proclivity toward hovering like a neurotic basket case, desperate to shield my delicate little flower from anything with sharper edges than a down pillow.  However, there are situations where one simply cannot help but feel like you’re the only one who possesses any measure of sanity; the lone zoo keeper in a cage full of crap-flinging monkeys.  Case in point: the cross section of human behavior that is Ikea on a busy Sunday afternoon.  What is it about modular furniture at low, low prices that brings out the absolute worst in parental behavior?

Though I was there only 45 minutes, I witnessed scads of wayward tots using the sofa section as their own personal moon bounce, flogging each other with assorted bargain priced kitchen utensils, and scaling piles of shag rugs like sugared-up mountain goats.  When I passed the lighting section, I would not have been surprised to find unattended crawling babies gnawing through electrical cords like the Persian cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  In a stunning example of saving the best for last, the absolute horror of all horrors occurred when I was within spitting distance of the checkout lines.  As I weaved through crowds in the self-serve warehouse, I stopped short when an overloaded flatbed cart rolled by me.  Pushed by a frazzled looking mother, the contents of said cart included the following:  no less than ten flat pack furniture items, assorted lamps and throw pillows, three children under the age of five, and teetering on the very top of the pile was a car seat occupied by a dozing newborn.  Wait…what?!  What is Swedish for “Have you lost your fucking mind?  That’s a BABY!”  Doesn’t Ikea issue informative pictorial directions that caution against this?  Surely there must be a drawing explaining that you do not place infant seats atop precariously stacked boxes of furniture?  Or at very least an 800 number you can call if you aren’t sure.  At least chuck him in the ball pit, woman!  The nice Smaland attendants will help you fish him out when you’ve finished picking out a new toothbrush holder.  Not exactly certain how to respond to this game of baby Jenga unfolding before my eyes, I defaulted to sarcasm.  A “gee, THAT seems safe” coupled with the most menacing stink eye I could muster.  I didn’t stick around to see if passive-aggressive conflict resolution 101 had any effect on her; it was time to get the hell out of dodge.  That was the Swedish meatball that broke the camel’s back.  So long Ikea, it’s been real.  I’ll be back the next time I need reassurance I’m not the worst parent around.