I like clothes. I like fashion. I have 4 boys. One of these things is not like the other.

When my kids were little they let me dress them in anything and everything: funky layers, loud prints, seersucker shorts and long socks…it was all fair game. As they got older layers were too hot; then button down shirts were out; next to go was anything with a collar; and most recently they developed an aversion to jeans.

I know some parents think caring about how kids dress is a waste, but I can’t help it, I care. A few years ago, I resigned myself to having kids clad in t-shirts and denim and that was okay; after all, you can make the denim a little skinny and add a V or cool print to the t-shirt and look put together. However, when jeans left our “acceptable clothing list,” a little war started, especially with my #1 and #3.

#1 claimed that all the boys his age wore athletic clothes to his new school, ALL of them. When I volunteered at the school, I paid close attention and while ALL was a little much, many of the boys were wearing athletic clothes to school. In the past, for us, athletic clothes had always been for sports, but #1, all of a sudden, felt like athletic clothes were school clothes.

With #3, the battle was a little more intense. Jeans were too tight, they bugged him, they were uncomfortable and itchy, he couldn’t run fast at recess or play hard during P.E. He HATED them. There were tears of frustration and anger and grumpy moods almost every day. Not worth it.

So, we had a little meeting and I laid out my issues with athletic clothes:
1. I had just purchased school clothes for everyone, so everyone had at least 3 or 4 new pair of nice jeans.
2. Athletic clothes get ruined quickly and tear easily, so they don’t look nice for nearly as long as jeans do.
3. School seems like a place where you should look presentable, not like you are on your way to a practice or bed.
4. We don’t own a lot of athletic clothes, so there is no way clean ones can be worn daily.
5. I buy your clothes and athletic clothes are not cheap. In fact they are often more expensive than “cute” clothes, so spending $15-$20 on pants I that I would rather you not wear is a tough sell.

After hearing me out and pretending to understand, we compromised by allowing athletic clothes on P.E. days. In a matter of weeks, #1 and #3 had P.E. every day :). I realized I was losing a battle that was not worth fighting.

So, we started a new clothing plan. I had to give a lot, but in the end, it makes for smoother, happier mornings and still allows me to get what I want when it really counts. Here are our clothing rules:

1. You may wear athletic clothes, but they still have to be “school clothes” not jammies, meaning they have to be decent looking and the shirt and pants should look like they go togethre (they got quite a few new options for Christmas to add to their collections). If your nice athletic clothes are not clean, you will have to wear jeans.

2. If I need you, on any day, ever, to wear something different, there will be NO complaining or whining and you will do it with a smile.

3. If you complain, refuse or whine about wearing something nice every once in awhile, you will no longer be allowed to wear athletic clothes to school. I will take them all, since I bought them all, and leave you jeans as your only option.

4. You still have to comb your hair, brush your teeth, and wear deodorant (if you are old enough), every day.

This has worked out quite nicely for all of us. There are days I still cringe a bit when they walk out the door (especially when we forget to do hair), but I am mostly okay with what they wear, because on the important days (school pictures, programs, church, heading out to dinner, etc.) they wear what I ask them to pretty happily. I have also become rather selective with what I buy, which keeps their options at least presentable.

Earlier this week my #3 had a program at school and he was supposed to wear black pants. I wanted him to wear church pants and he wanted to wear black athletic pants. He started to have a fit about how “uncomfortable” they were and how he didn’t want to wear them. All it took was a quick reminder that most things feel uncomfortable compared to pajamas every day and  if he couldn’t stick to our deal, he would need to practice wearing uncomfortable clothes more often so he didn’t have a fit when he was supposed to wear them for important events. He quickly figured out how to wear them with a smile.

So, a lot of times they look like this (one of our scarier moments)


But when it counts they look like this


They win the battle, I win the war!