I’ve heard parenting gets harder as your kids get older, and while I go back and forth on that statement (as would anyone who encountered my child up to age 3), back-to-school shopping definitely gets harder as your kids get older.
My soon-to-be seventh-grader has never been a patient and amiable shopper. But when he was younger, we could find one outfit that he liked and buy seven of them. (This is still how I shop for myself. Roughly half my wardrobe is actually the same sweater and blouse in 15 different colors.)
“Keep doing that,” my mom suggested. “Find a pair of pants he likes and buy them in three different colors.” The key to successfully employing this shopping method, of course, hinges on the precept of my 12-year-old actually finding an article of clothing he likes.
We went shopping a few weeks ago and my kid’s recalcitrant attitude was on full display. In every store he’d take a cursory look around and shrug. “Can I help you find anything?” a helpful, young clerk asked. Exasperated, I said, “We’re looking for shirts. Soft. No pockets. No hoods. No collars. No buttons. No pictures. No text. No color.”
I thought I was efficiently stating my kid’s preferences so we could expedite the whole process. My son thought otherwise, hissing, “I’d appreciate you not badmouthing me to strangers” before turning on his heel and walking out of the store.
Eventually we got to the heart of the matter: “If I want clothes, I’ll go shopping with my friends.” (You know, said the 12-year-old with no license and no car). I get it – contrary to popular belief, I was 12 once, too – and my kid wants the full teenage experience. So this weekend we plan to return with a friend in tow to a magically transformed mall with different stores and clothes than were there two weeks ago.
And I’m no longer the mom; I’m the money. I’ve outgrown my job of following my kid into the dressing room to loop a finger over the waistband of his pants and say, “They seem a little tight, but, you know, you just ate, so they’ll probably be OK.”
Instead I’ll float around the mall, phantomlike, waiting for a text from my kid that says “Found something come pay for it,” and then swoop in to heed the call before disappearing again into the ether.
Luckily my job as head pastry chef at Chez Short remains safe. My kiddo loves these easy, customizable bars (we like ours with toffee and peanut butter chips), which are a perfect after-school snack – proving my son still needs his mama at least a little bit.
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