Tonight I went down the wormhole of online toddler clothes shopping. My toddler is abnormally large which, if one follows the sizing of standard American clothing, all of my children have been.
My first born- the one I decided not to have an epidural with- a decision I reconsidered during transition when my teeth were burrowing into my husband’s shoulder- was 9 lbs 10oz. Which is 1 lb 10oz bigger than the bowling ball I select when I go to the bowling alley. We had brought to the hospital some itty bitty wittle newborn onesies that would fit a newborn kitten…which when my son was born may have fit his left thigh…and he went home from the hospital in a newly purchased size 6 month onesie.
Today as my 2 year old (size 4T) was red-faced, throwing her lunch plate across the room and screaming at me that I had given her the wrong plate (NOT MY PWATE! BOO MOMMY!) That’s right. She boos me. I noticed that her pants were a bit too snug, her sleeves a bit too tight. Though anger is generally my first reaction when plates are being thrown at me, I managed to steer myself in another direction…the ancient primal instinct to hunt and gather. I knew at that moment I’d be online shopping later.
Hunting and gathering clothes is not something I’m proud of in a global sense, but it is one of the most relaxing parts of being a parent. I do it after the kids are asleep, and it usually involves wine or whiskey. While hunting and gathering toddler clothes, I can finally relax after a long day as I venture off into feelings other than helplessness, mostly in response to graphic tees where I am either annoyed or delighted- with both being equally enjoyable.
Ideally, my kids would all be dressed in sustainable organic clothing, gender-neutral and without bold statements of political affiliations, quirky hipness, career aspirations, or who they’re most loving and loyal to. But…America.
I’m over unicorns. They’ve worn out their welcome. Same for llamas. And animals wearing glasses, which I never got to begin with. But there’s some great material to be found if you go beyond the doorbusters. Tonight I laughed out loud at a glitter cat in a beret with the caption “meowci.” Hilarious.
Though a grimacing a little at the 3 year girls modeling for a camera, I am delighted by their leggings with rainbow lightening patterns. Shame on everything for selling skin-tight leggings to girls starting from age 0 while boys get joggers and sweats, but look: those suggested leggings have ombre hearts all over them, so it’s ok to go ahead and risk the body image stuff because….so cute!!!!!!!!!
The dark side, where I sip my drink and shake my head and wonder why I never got into the graphic tee biz, involves captions that somehow praise ME. “My mom’s super amazing.” “Mom’s BFF” “Smart like my mom.” I am very uncomfortable with shirts that state my toddler’s love for me. It feels like stealing something from her. Also, why would I dress her in something proclaiming a thought she isn’t aware she’s having or might not be having at all? Seeing “Mom is my Hero” on her shirt would not take the sting out of that plate hitting my shin. Plus, she does not know she’s wearing a shirt that celebrates the very person that, in her world, is a dictator trying to steal joy from her very existence. If my toddler were to design her own graphic tee it would say, “Mom is a dictator! I have no freedom! Please help get me my own place! Give me all your lollipops!”
Many graphic toddler tees have become self-help mantras for the adults that look at them. “Be your best self.” “You got this”. “Invent the future.” Nothing wrong with these words. These are things people need to hear. But why stamp them on a shirt that is only read and understood by the people not wearing the shirts? You may as well add, “Finally make a budget!” and “You’ll regret that midnight bagel!”
What kind of a world would it be if the rules for toddler graphic tees applied to adults? The rules seems to be: Say the thing the person in charge of you wishes you were thinking. Or say something celebratory about magical creatures, fattening food, or displays of affection. Or cats. Anything about cats. Our shirts would say things like: “100% Centaur!” “Cool like my boss.” “The government is my BFF.” “Frosting on a spoon forever!”
Lately, the themes of exploring the wild and laid back surfer mentality have stumbled into the mix. You’ll see a moose driving a van with a surfboard on top over a mountain (pink shirt for girls, orange for boys) with “Get out There” underneath in really cool font. Two whiskeys in, I’m not really sure what we’re saying here. Are toddlers up for adventure in a way that involves forest creatures? Why are we wearing surfing shirts in Wisconsin?
It’s a night’s worth of entertainment, for sure. If your kids are grown or if you don’t have kids, I still would recommend browsing the graphic tees of sites that specialize in middle-class price range kids’ clothing. Are we hopeful? Are we believing in the future? Is every big sister really the best in the universe? Do we still think mermaids might exist? If you believe everything you read on a size 4T graphic tee, the possibilities are endless.