Polo, polo, polo

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.


  1. RuthWells

    Oh honey. Polo!

  2. Dave

    Buy the shirts.

  3. dad

    If Polo shirts keep hope alive and kicking…buy baby, buy.

    Glad he is doiing so well.

  4. Leandra

    And for me, buying them would make me afraid that I would jinx it? Right? But you’ve already talked about it on the internet (the other guaranteed jinx! LOL!), so I say you’ve got nothing to lose.

    Dare to hope.

  5. Saskia

    Go buy a shirt, at least one. Do it for yourself and for Monkey, just in case.

  6. Aimee

    Polo! You know what? I think buy them. It’s not like he won’t be able to wear polos if you decide that he’ll be better off at home, right? And I don’t think that embracing hope is ever a bad thing.

  7. Jennifer

    He’s going to need shirts. Period. Buy the polos.

  8. MomQueenBee

    Can you put a price on hope? If you could, it would be a lot higher than the cost of a few polo shirts. Buy!

  9. Christy

    Hi there,

    I’m a first time commenter but this really resonated with me. The situation in my world is completely different…but I get it, so totally. The short version of my story is that my second child, my first boy, didn’t survive – he was born early and was only with us for a week. This was two years ago. Last year, right around his birthday, I had a 20 week ultrasound for my third child – where we learned we were having another boy. (In case anyone’s concerned about where this is going, that boy is sound asleep in his crib upstairs after a rousing morning of smearing mangoes in his hair and banging tupperware around. Joy really does come, friend – you have to go through a lot of crap to get there sometimes, but it comes).

    I remember the day we found out it was another boy being at Costco with my three year old daughter, and happening upon a table of little guy Carter’s summer outfits. I stared at them for a few minutes, so totally lost between the worlds of “It’s so great, everything is fine; another boy; WHEEE!” and “JEEPERS do not buy a sleeper with a truck on it, are you insane?!?”

    For me I chose hope – I chose to stick some of those outfits in the cart and to just hope.

    That was a huge turning point for me – to make the decision to hope and believe that it was going to be okay – and that boy clothing as a tangible touchstone for that hope was also okay. For me it was – it worked out. Sam is great. He wore those clothes last summer and I loved putting them on him. But you know what? If the unthinkable had happened again I don’t think I would have regretted buying those clothes anyway….I needed to choose to make that hope real.

    I know your world is really different and more unpredictable in this situation…and I am so sorry it’s been so hard. I think I’d still be a fan of choosing hope and buying the shirts. And if Monkey ends up wearing the polos around the kitchen table while you homeschool then so be it – the hope is still there; it just maybe looks a little different. (And, I am sure, looks SMASHING in polo shirts regardless of the backdrop).

  10. mamalang

    I would buy them for the hope, and also because I know that polo shirts will eventually get worn in our house. We don’t have uniforms, but my kids end up having to wear polo’s for so many things.

    Hope is a hard thing, but I’m glad that you are attempting to embrace it.

  11. Scottsdale Girl

    I concur with the rest of the pretty commenters. Buy them.

  12. Melissa


  13. Karen R.

    My daughter’s school instituted a uniform policy when she was in 10th grade. And she loved it so much — the ease of choosing what to wear — that she continues to wear LL Bean polos and Bayside pants to work, almost 5 years after graduating. Though I have managed to convince her to go with some other color options. So go for it. The hope will be there, but the shirts may be used regardless of what happens next year.

    And wonderful, great news that Monkey continues to do well. Long may it continue.

  14. Nelson's Mama

    Glad your little primate is doing well!

    How I wish our schools would go to a uniform policy…there is SO much personal interpretation of our complex policy. It’s a total distraction to the students, teachers and a time drain on parents.

  15. MamaChristy


  16. The Mommy Therapy

    I love this post. I desperately love this post.

    Buy the shirts! Buy the shirts! Buy the shirts!

    I feel like I just watched a movie about the magic of Christmas and believing in Santa.

    Who knows how it will all work out, but you can’t not buy the hope. Even if it’s just cautionary, filled with questions hope.


    PS I really love the idea of uniforms for all school. Fantastic.

  17. Meg Waite Clayton

    The thing about Polo is it lasts forever. I wore them in college, and now my sons do to.

    >What accommodations will he need to succeed at the middle school?

    And this is such a challenge, isn’t it?

  18. Midj

    My son is finishing his senior year, the only one in which uniforms were required (new K-12 dress code). School sponsored t’s are also allowed. So, since winter break, he has not worn any of the 13 polos you helped me find at Kohl’s last year. If your Monkey can wear men’s M, I’ll be happy to send you 13 barely used Croft and Barrow polos for FREE! :-)

  19. Tracy B

    Oh Mir, hope is all any of us really have. Buy the shirts!!!!

  20. Jill W.

    Click it!

  21. Tenessa

    I’m all for hope and if polos represent more of that, then go all out!

    I, myself, am pinning my hopes on homeschooling next school year. Strangely enough, my Aspie has had a really great year of more steps forward than back, but my sweet little Kindergartener who has been bright and shiny her whole life is struggling in school. It has diminished her brightness and this we cannot have. With my oldest facing middle school in a couple of years and the last couple of years we’ve had with him and now with her, I’m opting for homeschooling all of them.

    Here’s to hope and whatever forms it takes. **cheers**

  22. M&Co.

    Oh poor Chickadee! The shoe police are coming. At my son’s school, where they have had a uniform policy for a long time, they even dictate the shoes. Only closed toed shoes. Must be all black or all white. The catholic school at my church has gone to the same policy and I’ve heard from other parents that other schools are following suit.

    So. My son goes to school every day in khaki pants, hunter green polo shirt and all white shoes.

    The only flexibility they seem to have is if the shirts have the slits on the sides at the bottom, the kids don’t have to tuck them in. Cause if you tuck them in, then they must wear a belt.

  23. My Kids Mom

    Buy the shirts. But if you decide to homeschool? Can I have first dibs to buy the lot?

  24. Karen

    Buy the shirts.

    My son started private high school this year, something new for all of us. At first I was concerned that he would HATE the dresscode – dress pants, dress shirt, tie, belt, dress shoes mandatory. Colors are all optional as long as there are no obscene “scenes” on the ties. Turns out, he LOVES these clothes. He says there’s no pressure if you’re not dressed “cool”, and he claims they are as comfortable as pajamas. Sounds good to me!

    Ask me how much I love those dress shirts that come out of the wash and onto the hanger, unwrinkled. Awesomeness.

  25. jwg

    My district started a uniform policy a few years back, but in my state you cannot make it mandatory in a public school. When the kids whose parents put them in uniforms found out that there was a choice all hell broke loose in some homes. I think it’s a great idea, but not unless it’s for everyone. Anyhow, buy the shirts. Think of them as a good luck charm.

  26. amy


  27. Lucinda

    Always choose hope.

  28. Katie in MA

    Hope. Always hope. Even if you have to find them a different home when the time comes (or after it), you can always say you did your best. You hoped for your son and you did your best by him, to help him make the best path through middle school that he could. And if it turns out that the path is in outrageous tshirts as he runs around the house working on school work there, isn’t that better than scrambling at the last minute and beating yourself up because ‘what mother doesn’t believe her son could do it?’ Not that the thought would be warranted, mind you! But it’s not one I think you should go within 100 meters of. :) Um, yeah. Done rambling now. To summarize: HOPE!

  29. Rachel

    Buy the shirts today, even if they’re not on sale! As another comment stated, he can wear them to the table if you home school. =)


  30. Jan in Norman, OK

    First, buy the shirts…definitely.

    Second, flashback to 7th grade (1964-65, Sierra Jr High, Roswell, NM) Dress code forbade cullottes and “grass-hoppers” (shorts with flaps fore and aft) for girls. Cheerleader uniforms included cullottes and pep-squad uniforms were “grass-hoppers”. Perfectly fine for those chosen few to wear the forbidden fashions — but not us ordinary girls. Oh, the unfairness of it all!

  31. Laurie

    Buy the shirts. No matter what happens, you will be prepared. We go through polo’s like panty hose over here… thank god for oxyclean : )

  32. Heather

    I too vote for hope and Polo shirts.

  33. Anna

    Talk about role reversal!

  34. Sheila

    My goodness you write well.

    And yes, buy the shirts.

  35. Brigid

    I hope you’ve already bought the shirts. Do.It.

  36. Jennifer Hamilton

    The best and worst thing that I ever did for myself was to memorize my credit card number for easy access online buying. I say “fish out of water and but the polo shirts”!

  37. Lynda M O

    Mir, I vote to accept the generous commenter who offered you her son’s shirt for free. And if that needs reinforcement, by all means, order a few in your favorite colors. You will be the one looking at the little man !~!~

  38. Lise

    Oh, I’m keeping all my fingers crossed for Monkey. It’s wonderful that things are starting to get better for him.

  39. Brigitte

    Hey, putting him in the “uniform” would be a good thing even if he never went to the middle school, one less choice to stress on every morning.
    But . . . polo!

  40. Jean

    Ditto to #34, Sheila.

    Mir, you have an unbelievable gift in your writing. To tell a tale like this by starting out writing about school uniforms, well, it’s a lovely path to follow. It’s all very clear the way you tell it, but there are a whole lot of us who consider ourselves reasonably well versed in words who probably couldn’t put this as eloquently as you have. (I can’t even get my comment to read as nicely as I want it to…)

    Kudos to you. And Polo! Definitely buy the polos.

  41. mamaspeak

    I personally consider Middle School/Jr. High to be the first ring of hell. I know I’m not alone in that. However, my nephew proved me wrong these last few years. He has always been on the shy side, a bit geeky, and not easy to make friends. He went to a “science magnet” elementary school, which means it wasn’t a traditional neighborhood school. Everyone had to apply to get in and it didn’t feed into any specific middle school. The middle school he choose to apply to wasn’t the closest to his house, so any kids he might know there, probably weren’t from his neighborhood. Middle school is hard enough when you have friends, so we weren’t expecting much socially for him. Turns out middle school is his thing. He has blossomed in ways we never even considered. Yes, he’s still on the geeky side, but he’s embraced it & has a a couple great friends. Friends are the key to success in school from what I’ve read. So reserve judgment; middle school may surprise you. It may not, but middle school sucked for me & I had lots of friends and was very involved. You never know. Praying to the FSM for you all.

  42. Lara

    So awesome that you have this dilemma! Buy the hope – there is always eBay if they aren’t needed ;)

  43. Daisy

    My advice would be buy the polos and keep the receipts. As for pants, how fast is he growing? Never mind. We mothers of boys deal with clothes shopping in a way that only we understand.

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