I wasn’t the most hygiene-sensitive kid.
Lucky enough to grow up in a small town, my friends and I would play outside dawn to dusk in the summer. When I describe what Bourke Street was like growing up, people ask if I traveled through a time machine to get where I am today. It was so Norman Rockwell (well, the Canadian version) that I could keep a full roster of friends even though I also had an uncanny ability to avoid baths.
One summer, I remember marveling at the freckles that had developed on my arm. I figured it was because I was spending so much time in the sun. Nope. It was dirt.
When our kids were born, my wife informed me that normal people bathe their children just about every day, starting a nightly ritual that has continued to this day, going better some evenings than others. (Tonight’s bath didn’t go so well. Our daughter’s in the penalty box as we speak.)
While showers are now, thankfully, part of my daily ritual, I’ve also always been similarly clueless about fashion. Most days I go to work generally matched (thanks to seminars with my ever-patient wife) but she doesn’t trust me for one second when it comes to picking outfits for the kids.
That’s natural. Children (especially girls) are real-life dolls for Mom to play with.
But after enough Dad-picked outfits have resulted in sideways “Seriously?” stares, I’ve started giving only token resistance. A sample conversation:
Dad: “What about these for the boy?”
Mom: “They don’t go together.”
Dad: “Blue and purple don’t go together??”
Mom (angrily): “Go make breakfast!!!”
Here’s the thing. I actually try. It’s not ironic social commentary when a child arrives at the breakfast table looking like they’ve already spilled Froot Loops on their clothing.
In fact, I’ll specify exactly why matching doesn’t happen. There are four reasons:
1. Like every kid today, our children have approximately 37 times as much clothing as we had growing up. Our daughter has hair bows for every color in the rainbow, and outfits that go with each one. If you wanted me to match these up, you’d need to give me far more time than we usually have in the morning.
2. Speaking of time in the morning, my stupid job has me up before six, stumbling around in the dark. Add that to the fact that our house has so little light that I want to burn torches when the sun isn’t up, and I can barely tell if it’s a sweater or shorts that I’ve pulled out of the packed clothing drawer when I’m tasked with clothing a kid.
3. Even if it was light, I also deal with this: I can’t see. I have the vision of an 85-year-old man. Not only am I terribly shortsighted, wearing glasses or contacts since I was eight, I can barely tell blue and purple apart with my crummy eyesight.
4. I simply don’t care enough. That is a familiar refrain when my wife asks me if I actually try to find shirt and pant combos that go together the least when dressing our kids.
Since my wife can’t clone herself, I still have to pitch in during our daily mad scramble to almost leave the house on time, even if that means picking mismatched outfits in the dark.
The kids will live. My daughter’s a miniature fashionista, but my son doesn’t know any better. In fact, he’d rather be working on his dirt freckles.
Brendan O’Hallarn writes “White Knuckles” every Wednesday in WYDaily. It’s a column about marriage, parenthood, work, life’s daily challenges, and some weeks, nothing at all. Brendan’s also addicted to Twitter. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/#!/White__Knuckles. On email, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.