Every year the same thing: the kids insist on sprouting ever-longer arms and legs and they need new winter coats. Last year we managed with coats we’d bought the year before but Malli’s wrists started poking out into the cold February air and I defy you to find a winter coat in a shop when it’s actually winter. Can’t be done. So he managed with long mittens for the last couple of cold months and this year I started my quest early.
My first venture into children’s clothing stores way back in 2007 left me in a gendered-clothing-fury that got my name in print. I no longer expect to find gender-neutral or simply-designed children’s clothing. Or at least I know the only chance of finding them is in the boys’ section. Still, I fester.
My kids are failing to back me up in my weak and futile quest for clothes that don’t scream girly-girl or tough-guy. Akka’s neutral dressing days began to expire when she started kindergarten and got an eyeful of the Barbie backpacks, glittery tights, sparkle hairbands and skorts. Since then she’s been picking out her own clothes before bed and usually heads out the door in a symphony of colour and patterns (because one pretty thing looks pretty but three pretty things look three times as pretty!)
Malli couldn’t care less. Aside from expressing the occasional preference for a button shirt over a t-shirt he just pulls his clothes on and won’t even let you turn them around when they’re backwards. When he presents himself in the morning I wearily ask “Malli, are you wearing underwear?” Usually he is but I still ask because not long ago the answer was “No, but it’s ok. I’m wearing a belt.”
Part of my iron-clad argument for clothes to be gender-neutral is that I should not have to shop for two sets of clothing for two kids. I should be able to pass clothes from the oldest to the youngest. Gendered clothing negates hand-me-downs. Wasteful. I proudly identify and reject the planned obsolesence of gendered clothing. But my kids’ growth patterns have forced a re-evaluation. Malli is a big four-year old. Akka is a small six-year old. This winter they’ll both be wearing size 5 winter coats. The hand-me-down argument is blown.
Malli fits into the coat Akka wore last year. Size five. Warm. Orange. Simple. From the boys’ section. She still fits into it too, of course, but she wants a long coat, preferably with a tie around the waist. There aren’t any of those in the boys’ section and given that he’ll never wear it, I gave up and walked reluctantly to the pink and sparkly side of the store and bought one. Size five. Warm. Purple. Not so simple. From the girls’ section. She loves it. She wouldn’t take it off all afternoon and we’re months away from below-zero temperatures.