Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fashion Forward

Here are the bits of information I would like to sow cleverly into my narrative so that you will scarcely notice that they are there:

(1) At nursery school, Bub wears a pair of fluffy dog slippers.

(2) Until recently his school backpack has been a freebie from the Little Gym with a single strap across the chest. Every time he tried to put it on, he would get one arm through and then look around vainly for the second strap, so finally last week I gave in and bought him a proper backpack, one that he can actually wear on his back.

(3) For the last week or so, Bub has been carrying a Piglet doll everywhere he goes. These intense attachments are few and far between for him, and they always freak me out a little.

Okay, that should do it for background information. Now for my post.

Bub has been in no mood to brook disappointment this week. Ordinary setbacks have plunged him into wails of agony. These aren’t protest cries – in fact they are accompanied by uncharacteristically submissive behaviour. Bub meekly climbs into the car, head down and heels dragging – the only signs of his misery are the ear-splitting howls of despair.

Between the meltdowns and the Piglet obsession, I’ve been worrying about him. When I left nursery school yesterday, Bub was still traumatized by the latest small tragedy (the fact that I had dropped him off instead of his father). The last thing I saw was the teacher lifting his floppy hand in a wave as he dropped down to all fours, refusing to engage and pretending to be a dog. His small yips were a poor substitute for his usual cheery goodbye.

I got all the way to the parking lot before I recalled that these sudden regressions into strange behaviour almost always presage a developmental leap. I wondered what it could be – in what way could the world be opening up to him, presenting him with a new level of understanding? Twenty-four hours later, I think I may have a clue.

Incident #1: Scene: The Little Gym. The class is about to begin when Bub starts looking around. “I need my backpack!” he announces. “I want to show all the kids my – my – from the movie Cars backpack!”

Incident #2: Scene: Front Hall. “I need a new shirt!” Bub declares. Having taken the rather unusual step of selecting his own shirt, a basketball jersey, he is apparently having cold feet. Unfortunately, there is no time for a wardrobe change, so the usual despairing howls follow us out to the car. Finally I relent. There’s a spare shirt in his backpack – we can make the switch when we get to nursery school. Bub’s relief is obvious.

“What’s wrong with your basketball shirt?” I inquire now that he’s calm enough to respond. After taking a moment to collect his thoughts, Bub explains.

“You can’t wear a basketball shirt with dog slippers. That’s silly!”

I suspect that Bub may be making that most dangerous and equivocal of discoveries: the concept of being cool. Cars backpack? Cool. Pairing a basketball jersey with dog slippers? Not so much.

44 comments:

Maddy said...

Despite my limited experience of child development, I'd have to agree that quite often a little plummet into the doldrums is shortly followed by a flurry of huge steps forward.
Best wishes

Jenifer said...

Wow. You are insightful...at first I thought you were heading towards 'proud or pride', but after the second incident I do think it could be cool.

It starts so young! I have been really worried about this - especially for Papoosie Girl who as a late December baby is the youngest in a split class no less. There are kids up to nearly 3 years older than her around her all the time.

So far, while she certainly knows what is 'cool' for her group she really has no interest other than what I present her with. She doesn't ask for it - yet.

Bub's adventures always make me smile and your interpretations blow me away.

Smiling Mama said...

You are such a fabulous writer! This was so enjoyable. I'm afraid you're in trouble, though, who knows where this need-to-be-cool will lead!!!

Catherine said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I LOVE THIS POST!

These are the best sentences:

“You can’t wear a basketball shirt with dog slippers. That’s silly!”

I suspect that Bub may be making that most dangerous and equivocal of discoveries: the concept of being cool.


You show 'em, Bub.
catherine

Angie said...

Ah YES ... Two steps backward, three steps forward. I know when my children develop some sort of a strange behavior or new obsession, I fear for their self-esteem. Am I not being adequately loving or attentive that they feel the need to find solace in such odd comforts. That coming from a mom who does not have extenuating factors like autism. So, I empathize with your anxiety over such matters.

I do, however, have two boys who are WAY too young (6 and 4)to understand the implications of, yet always strive to be ... COOL! I fear the day the choices they make to appear cooler are difficult, dangerous, and bear severe consequences.

Donna said...

You may be onto something there!

the end of motherhood said...

There is no such thing as a small tragedy when you are busy trying to figure out if the basketball jersey/fluffy dog slipper combo is cool.

KC said...

I like this notion of regressions preceding a developmental leap. It's comforting. It means we're in for some serious advances over here (or it could be the new baby.)

Bub is so developing his personal aesthetics - and clearly on the right track re: the slippers/jersey combo.

chickadee said...

how smart of you to put those pieces together.

Karen said...

welcome to this side of the fence. I remember our first moment. I was informed that no one wore sweatpants to Kindergarten. People wore jeans or cords, not sweats (apparently).

ewe are here said...

This made me smile.

Well of course a basketball jersey and dog slippers are a silly combination.... so uncool.

lildb said...

oh, little man - my heart throbs in pain and pleasure for you.

and for you, too, momma.

Matriarch said...

I was a bit puzzled by your concern about his piglet obsession. When my oldest daughter applied for a master's program in international affairs, she wrote an essay about how her lifelong devotion to her favey (baby blanket) had empowered her all around the world (70 plus countries).

Mad Hatter said...

I suppose you will have him judging the red carpet in a few weeks and will send his report back to all of us. Move over Joan. Shaddup, Kujo. Bub is here.

Mimi said...

God I hope this means Munchkin is about to become a nuclear physicist or something. The tantrums. It's me or her, at this point ...

But yay for Bub. That's something: cool is a matter of sensitive social awareness.

Magpie said...

Charming and fascinating post.

I love that you saw a breakthrough coming, but didn't know what it would be.

Beck said...

The discovery of cool is a treacherous one - my son suddenly realized last year that his beloved Elmo sweatshirt was not okay to wear to school. It's a huge part of them figuring out the world without us in it.

cinnamon gurl said...

I got all the way to the parking lot before I recalled that these sudden regressions into strange behaviour almost always presage a developmental leap.

My God, your insight and cool head are impressive!

Angela said...

Coolness is a hard thing.
Growing up

Stimey said...

I absolutely love that he wanted to change the jersey instead of the dog slippers.

bubandpie said...

Matriarch - Actually, I had a whole post in the works passionately defending my son's right to have Piglet when and if he needs Piglet (in the face of soul-destroying nursery school regulations), but then Bub foiled me by deciding that Piglet needed to stay in his backpack so as not to get snowed on. I think it's the suddenness and intensity of the attachments that throw me off (and I can't help wondering what emotional need is driving this sudden need for a security object).

Don Mills Diva said...

It does start young. I am going to do my best to teach that if you have the right attitude WHATEVER you wear is suddenly fashionable!

nomotherearth said...

He's got style, he does.

wheelsonthebus said...

Silly mommy. Basketball shirt with dog slippers, indeed.

Zach figured out "cool" pretty recently, too, and I don't know why it bothers me so very much.

Emily

Jolyn said...

Or he's just making the leap into wanting to control what he does and doesn't wear ... something I whole-heartedly encourage because I think/hope it will translate to future choices that are dictated by personal preference and not just by what's "cool"!

Aimee said...

Thankfully, Fiver has seemed to miss out on the "cool" quotient thus far. His inability to interpret cues from his peers seems to insulate him from the pressure associated with fitting in. (of course, it also leaves him on the fringe of most things, which is another heartbreaking scene altogether).

We get our fill of what's cool and what's not from Francie. Yesterday, we endured a frantic search for the right kind of headband since "People just don't wear the fuzzy pink ones in third grade anymore, Mom!" Silly me.

painted maypole said...

i love, though, that the doggy slippers ARE cool. he is my kinda kid.

nikki said...

Dude, I wish he would have told me sooner. What was I thinking wearing my dog slippers with my baseball shirt?!?

Thank you for my Friday morning smile.

bren j. said...

No! NOOO! Another tiny bit of innocence lost. On the other hand, if all it takes is a Cars backpack to be cool, what am I waiting for?! (I will NOT, however, ditch my slippers.)

mamatulip said...

I think you're on to something.

Cyndi said...

Uh, oh. My daughter is all about cool lately. Some things that are not cool- her parents.

NotSoSage said...

Oh dude, you're in for it now!

Occidental Girl said...

Progress! I love a boy with a sense of style. Hooray!

Luisa Perkins said...

An expanded social awareness: that is huge. It's as exciting as it is exhausting, in my experience.

kgirl said...

as long as he always thinks you're cool enough to be his mama, i'd let him wear whatever he likes.

Sarcasta-Mom said...

Oh no, the cool phase. lol.

KAL said...

This is great :) I too, like thinking that the regressions are warming us up for a developmental leap. I love the image of him in his slippers at school. He is cool indeed!

Kyla said...

That is important stuff, B&P! Wow.

And I think the little regressions are probably indicative of the leaps.

kyra said...

yay! the doggie slippers stay!

perhaps one day fluffy will notice what he's wearing!

JCK said...

Oh MY he's a fashion maven! I think you are right on about the challenging/difficult to take episodes preceding a developmental leap. At least that seems to be true here.

Amy said...

No wonder I get sideways glances when I pair my jersey with my dog slippers! :)

Very insightful, B&P. I'm amazed by your powers of observation. And way to go, Bub!

Christina said...

Ha! Peer pressure can really have an effect. In this case it's making Bub think more about what to wear, which I guess could be good and bad. Good that he is taking pride in his clothing and taking notice of what others wear, but bad that he may suppress some of his creativity in order to "fit in". (Although we all do this to some degree.)

Cordy still has no sense of fashion at all. She wears whatever we dress her in without any complaint.

Lisse said...

I got all the way to the parking lot before I recalled that these sudden regressions into strange behaviour almost always presage a developmental leap.

A giant light bulb went off for me here. Something very similar happens with my "sensory" son, age 5.5.

Susanne said...

Well, who would have thought that little boys would place so much value on wearing "cool" clothes? My son has refused to wear anything he pronounces uncool for more than a year. Which means that he will wear not warm enough sweatshirts all through winter. No fleece, no lovingly hand-knitted sweaters made by his grandmother.

Often I have to use all my power of persuasion with him.

I always give my evil laugh when other mothers tell me that at least with a boy you don't have disputes over clothes...

For Bub it is a real achievement to grasp something as social as the coolness factor of clothes, isn't it?