I find my fingers itching to click “Buy” on polo shirts.
I spend a goodish chunk of every day combing websites and sales and coupons for Want Not, and of course some of the deals I’m finding, I’m also buying. I consider it an occupational hazard. Though I don’t really consider it a hazard, even when my daughter opens the pantry and beholds fifteen boxes of cereal and dryly inquires, “Exactly how many people do you think live here, Mom?”
My standard line is that I am cursed with tightwad tendencies but impeccable taste; for me, the deals are about getting the expensive stuff for cheap, not just plain BEING cheap. Just buying cheaper stuff is not the same thing. I’m aware that a large percentage of the items I buy for my family could probably be procured at The Big Box Store Which Shall Not Be Named for approximately what I’m paying to order higher-quality analogs from other stores.
Part of the way I keep us in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed (ha!) is by scouring sales and clearance and buying ahead for things we’ll need next season or next year. And today it seems like I’m seeing polo shirts everywhere, though of course it may just be that I’m subconsciously looking for them.
Chickadee’s middle school went to a uniform code last year as an “experiment.” The decision wasn’t made until that summer, which meant I had to do some scrambling to get her outfitted for the year at a price I was willing to pay, but we figured it out. That first year, the allowed items were plentiful: Polo shirts and oxfords in any of three colors, any type of pants in two different colors, sweatshirts in any color. As these things are wont to go, some rules changed themselves and some rules were changed by the administration; for example, the girls only wear polo shirts, period. They don’t wear oxfords because that would be unbearably geeky. Or so I’m told. And for the second year—after uniforms were declared “a success” and a few other schools in our district hopped on the bandwagon—the rules were tightened because the kids were stretching the boundaries (imagine). Now bottoms must be khaki, forever and ever, world without color, AMEN. No corduroy! No cargo pockets! No logos on anything anywhere, sweatshirts must be solid-colored in sanctioned school colors ONLY!
Of course the new rules were announced exactly two weeks before school resumed, last summer, after I’d purchased a slew of new bottoms for Chickadee which were then rendered code violations. I tried not to take it personally.
I actually really like that they wear uniforms. It makes life easier both for her and for me, and I think it removes an element of “gotta wear the right thing”itis which girls are so prone to, though it doesn’t remove it altogether. (Despite my adult love of shoes, I recall having no such affinity as a kid. And yet, I think the uniform thing has served to make footwear of tantamount importance to Chickadee’s cohort, because it’s one of the few items left unlegislated by the uniform code.)
Anyway. By the time school starts, my goal is simple: Have all uniform items the kid will need for the year.
It’s a fool’s errand, naturally, as both years, now, Chickadee has magically sprouted out of her uniform pants mid-year, necessitating another round of shopping. But the tops, those can be taken care of before August. And in two years, here is what I have learned: A batch of five polo shirts of relatively good quality will last the year, but should be thrown away without remorse come summer. (Note: crappy shirts will disintegrate in the wash before the year is out.) Sure, I normally expect a shirt to last longer than a year. But the uniform shirts seem to take a beating. (It doesn’t help that she prefers white, but apparently does not prefer not dumping her lunch on herself or “missing” with her markers or whatever. Ahem.)
So I always keep an eye out for polos for Chickadee, throughout the year. After all, she’ll need them next year, too, although she seems to already be counting down the days until she hits high school and can wear whatever she wants. I have wisely refrained from mentioning that by the time she hits high school, they may go to uniforms, too.
But now I’m seeing sales and deals on boys’ polos, and it feels like a little, mostly-squelched voice in my head keeps calling out “Marco!” just like the kids do in the pool. The answer, of course, is “Polo!” I can hear it, but if I’m playing by the rules I don’t know exactly where it’s coming from, because I can’t see. It feels just like that.
Tomorrow is the beginning of March. There’s less than three months of school left to this year. And after two years of being positive that Monkey would not be able to attend the local middle school when the time came, the time is almost here. And instead of figuring out our homeschooling options, I am considering buying polos. For him. Because he’s doing so, so much better. Because… maybe.
There’s a long path between Here and There; lots of stuff to figure out. What accommodations will he need to succeed at the middle school? Where’s the line between where he needs support and where he should be held accountable? How do we make this workable in a way that doesn’t make him an automatic target? How do we do this so that he continues doing well, isn’t overwhelmed, learns what he needs, makes new friends, gets that chunk of Life As A Regular Kid that he so desperately craves? I have so many questions and fears, and have to rely on so many other people in this scenario, that it often feels like too much to take in.
So instead, my finger hovers over the “Buy” button. Because there are sales and I always buy ahead of time. Because more and more, he’s talking about next year, and looking to me for confirmation. Because I could resell them or donate them if it turns out Monkey doesn’t need them, right?
Because if I buy him the shirts, it means hope is real.
Marco, Marco, Marco.