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Friday, November 19, 2010


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Don’t sweat the sweatshirts (or should I?)

I did not expect to be fighting the Sweatshirt Wars yet again. But just as her brother did three years ago (though certainly not because he did), my eight-year-old daughter Holly wants to wear the same sweatshirt to school every single day. And it’s really displeasing to my husband and me.

With Tim, it was a bright red hoodie. He liked it so much throughout third grade that he wrote a poem about it and read it at an Authors’ Tea. All the parents laughed, because by that time in the school year – March, I believe – pretty much everyone associated with the class had seen plenty of Tim in his red sweatshirt. For that matter, pretty much everyone in Eastern Massachusetts had probably seen Tim in his red sweatshirt, because it was all he ever wore. Fortunately, that ended once the weather warmed up. As temperatures climbed over 60, he finally, mercifully, shed the red sweatshirt and instead wore a Heinz catsup t-shirt every day for the next seven months.

We didn’t expect to have the same problem with Holly. Wearing the same thing every day is a boy thing, I figured. Even if she’s no fashion plate, surely she’ll have a basic sense of style and hygiene that will inspire her to want to put on a different outfit per 24-hour cycle.

Wrong. She picked out a pullover hoodie at Old Navy on our back-to-school shopping excursion Labor Day weekend and hasn’t taken it off since.

Well, that’s not exactly true. She’s taken it off plenty, but only because we insist that she wear a different layer under it every day. In fact, we wrote this into the kids’ school-year contract this year: “No wearing the same shirt on consecutive days.” So they found a loophole: they each change their t-shirts every morning, and then throw the same old sweatshirt over it.

It’s a dilemma for me how much to care and how hard to crack down. On the one hand, compared to so many things, it’s trivial. It’s just clothes, and as I said, this isn’t a matter of bad hygiene; it’s her outer layer. (I wash the sweatshirt once a week or more, while she’s sleeping.) Don’t sweat the small stuff, I tell myself. Pick your battles. There are enough topics I need to crack down on, from effective teeth-brushing to doing homework to not purposely provoking her brother into physical violence against her. Wearing the same sweatshirt every day won’t result in cavities, failing third grade or bruises. What’s the big deal?

On the other hand, from a fashion standpoint it’s embarrassing. Holly has plenty of clothes, drawers-ful: things I’ve bought for her, items she’s picked out herself, gifts from family members, hand-me-downs from cousins and neighbors. She could wear a different outfit every day of the month if she wanted to. And I have to believe other parents wonder why we let her do this. (I have to believe that, because, I admit, I used to wonder the same thing about parents who let their kids wear the same thing over and over back when my kids were still too young to dress themselves.)

I’m still vacillating. I really wish she’d tire of the sweatshirt; heaven knows everyone else in Carlisle probably has. On the other hand, if she did, she’d probably just fall in love with a different article of clothing. And at least I don’t have the problem some of my friends do where their daughters insist on changing clothes three or four times before leaving for school in the morning. No one can accuse Holly of being overly preoccupied with physical appearance.

I don’t know the answer. Maybe I’ll take her shopping this weekend and see if she can find one or two other items of apparel to alternate the sweatshirt with.

And if I’m really lucky? At least one of them will be reversible. ∆

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