Life with a determined four-year-old is a series of negotiations enlivened with occasional combat. Sometimes you have to let them win, sometimes you have to choose your battles, and sometimes you have to take a hard line. Three cliches, I know...I’m busy.
Our most recent battle was over clothing. It’s cool enough now that shorts and t-shirts are no longer appropriate; long pants and long-sleeved shirts are required. 7yo’s reaction to this, as to all other clothing-related matters, is no reaction whatsoever. I lay clothes out for him every night to save time in the morning, and he puts on whatever is there; doesn’t think about it, doesn’t look at it, doesn’t care.
4yo is another matter entirely. From approximately age 2, he’s had opinions, firmly held ones, regarding his attire. One morning about two years ago, having complained to me about not liking the shirt he was wearing (a shirt which up to that point I’d had a hard time separating him from), and having been told that we didn’t have time to change clothes, he expressed his displeasure by stripping naked and flinging every garment he’d been wearing; shirt, pants, socks, underpants, everything, then standing naked, glaring at me with his tiny arms crossed defiantly across his toddler chest. We often have to haggle over clothing choices. Colors and patterns are entirely negotiable. If he wants a striped shirt with madras shorts, then who cares, right? He’s a preschooler. I do enforce standards, however, for cleanliness and weather-appropriateness. 4yo was not happy when I explained one recent morning that the 45-degree temperature precluded the wearing of short pants (they’re never called “shorts” by the 4yo; always “short pants”). He loves his short pants. He HATES long pants. He didn’t WANT to wear long pants. Long pants are STUPID and STINKY. Only STONKHEADS wear long pants.
“Look”, I pointed out, “Ahpa is wearing long pants”.
The “Ahpa is…” technique is usually very successful:
Ahpa is going to take a shower? OK, then I’ll take a shower.
Ahpa’s eating his peas? OK, I’ll choke a few down.
Ahpa’s wearing long pants? Ahpa’s a fashion-challenged stonkhead who wouldn’t know style if it bit him on the ass, so tell it to What Not to Wear, OK?
I finally prevailed on the issue of long pants and left 4yo to play while I started making breakfast and lunches. Five minutes later, he entered the kitchen, walking as though he’d just hopped off an underweight horse.
“See?” he said, satisfaction evident on his face. “I TOLJU that it’s not too cold for short pants!” Necessity being the mother of invention, he’d rolled his pants up well above his knees and his sleeves halfway up his upper arms. Et voila! Short pants and a short-sleeved shirt! So there, mommy! Comfort was obviously not his first consideration, as the bulk around his thighs made walking and sitting difficult, and as he began moments later to complain that his legs were cold. “I know, it’s crazy, right?” I said. He reacted with utter disdain to the suggestion that the solution to the latter was to roll down his pants.
This morning, after a few days of unseasonable warmth that had allowed the temporary return of the beloved short pants, we returned to the reviled long pants, and 4yo once again rolled them up to his thighs and waddled into the kitchen for his bagel. His serene and smugly confident demeanor said “leave the lazy comfort-first aesthetic to Joe the Plumber and his ilk. I shall maintain a dignified and stylish appearance at all times and under all circumstances.” It’s a lot of look, but he pulls it off.