My weariness about the winter jacket is based on past experience; my children are not gentle or kind to their clothing. I’m not talking about the usual wear-and-tear – this isn’t about the frayed knee of a pair of jeans or the toe that pokes out the end of a pair of socks. I’ve been known to get a little twitchy about the 800th missing mitten, like anyone else, but I accept that kids aren’t always totally responsible.
This is more than that.
One of my kids woke up one day and cut the sleeves off of several of his shirts. Shirts that he ostensibly liked – he wore them often. Once he cut the arms off, however, he didn’t wear them anymore and he hid them in the drawer of his bedroom until we discovered them and asked him WTF happened. He shrugged and said, “I cut off the sleeves..” and had no further explanation.
One of my kids destroyed so many pairs of shoes – intentionally cutting at parts or ripping things or pulling off the sole – that we now refuse to buy any shoes that aren’t from Zellers. If he wants something fancier than the most basic, he has to use his allowance.
I spent a good chunk of time sewing pyjama pants for the kids, at their request, only to have one tear his apart and another insist on a waistband so short that he couldn’t even wear the stupid things (and I repeatedly told him that he wouldn’t want the waist that low and he kept insisting on it and I kept insisting otherwise and.. well, I was right but it didn’t make me feel better in the end to ‘win’ that one.) I also sewed them pillows with funky fabric that they destroyed in short order.
One of the kids has lost all of his clothes to parental control because of the sheer number of items he’s messed up by refusing to hang up or put them away, storing food in the pockets, and having plastic wrappers (with food residue on them) go through the dryer. Or for not changing his clothing – but pretending he has – so we’ve been left to ‘police’ it by knowing firsthand if he changed his underpants, or not.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been so grateful for the friends who have given us hand-me-downs (and, in some cases, brand new clothing) for the boys – so you might think I’d be more relaxed about this. After all, I didn’t have to pay for a lot of things. But, it doesn’t make it any easier to see things get wrecked the first time they’re worn or by small hands with scissors.
Nothing I say has any impact on this; I talk about how long clothes can last if they’re treated well. I talk about how, if something starts to rip, I can fix it (if I’m told it’s starting to rip). I talk about how, if we don’t have to buy the same item over and over again, we can afford to buy other things. I point out how much they love that shirt and I talk about how I have pairs of shoes that are older than my youngest kid (and probably my middle one, too).
Gifts, not just clothing, that they ask for are dismantled in short order – a day, maybe a week, after they’re purchased. Anything they can smash up will be smashed. We warn them not to touch the fragile thing and.. blammo! broken! We tell them not to leave the electronic thing on the floor and.. blammo! stepped on and broken!
Some day, when I can face it, I’ll document the insane damage done to this house – not by accident, but intentionally. Not even out of anger – ‘just because’.
They’re like the perfect little Zen Monks – material things have absolutely no value to them. It is maddening, though, for me.
And so I look at that winter coat and I think, eh.