Seven Basic Principles of Dressing My Progeny

“I don’t know if you think they will match, but I do …” said #2 pulling out a pair of plaid shorts and a print shirt. Either one was LOUD on its own. Together they were unbearable.

When #2 was a bit younger, I didn’t care when outfits didn’t match. Preschoolers don’t have any fashion sense. But now in first grade, things are beginning to change. Although I generally try not to exercise too much control over #2’s sartorial choices, today I had to draw the line. #2 made the case that they looked great together. I, squinting so I didn’t have to see them in all their discordant glory, tried to explain that they were, perhaps, a bit too much. Then I tried: “They look too good together. You should spread them out over a couple days.” I wasn’t making any progress, so I told #2 to ask Mother. I would accept whatever her decision was.

Predictably, Mother nearly passed out when she saw #2’s choice. And predictably, #2 retrenched.

Although I don’t shy away from exerting my parental authority, in small matters I don’t usually see the point. What #1 and #2 wear to school is, usually, a small matter. I don’t, however, want to see #2 go to school in something so startling as to elicit ridicule. So I had to figure out how to tell strong-willed 6-year-old #2 not to wear an train-wreck of an outfit. Adapting Penn and Teller’s sleight of hand trick is key here. I’ve rearranged their “Seven Basic Principles of Magic” into the “Seven Basic Principles of Dressing My Progeny”:

  1. Steal — to secretly obtain a wanted article of clothing;
  2. Palm — to hold an article of clothing in an apparently empty hand;
  3. Load — to secretly move the wanted article of clothing to where its needed;
  4. Switch — to secretly exchange one article of clothing for another;
  5. Ditch — to secretly dispose of unwanted article of clothing;
  6. Misdirection — to lead attention away from a secret move;
  7. Simulation — to give the impression that an article of clothing was always there in the first place;

This morning, with #2, the trick was getting just the right skirt to go with the shirt. Once I saw that skirt, it was just a matter of Steal—Palm—Load—Switch—Ditch—Misdirection—Simulation and we were good to go. #2 happily danced off to school wearing a cute shirt-skirt combo that made everybody happy and doesn’t attract ridicule or mockery.