Dear Kids Clothing Retailers From Parents Everywhere

(This post originally appeared on Huffington Post Parents)

My 7-year-old needs new shorts. The ones labeled 4-5 have lasted us two years but they are now worn and stained. We could probably squeeze one more summer out of them but there’s a high probability of a wardrobe malfunction at camp. So I went out and bought her a few more pairs of shorts from Gymboree. The label said 7 with a parenthesis saying 6-7 so I assumed they would fit. Wrong. Too big. (P.S. Gymboree, it’d be really helpful if you had a changing room so we could discover this before buying the shorts and coming home.) Then I realized that, this time last year, I did exactly the same thing. Bought her two pairs of shorts from Target labeled 6-6X. She was six at the time so I figured I was safe. But no, those were also big too and, for the record, we tried them on last week and they are still too big.

I always run into similar issues with pants in the fall with my son, now 9-years-old. He always seems to grow, like, a foot during the summer (an exaggeration, I know, but it’s always when they seem to shoot up) and the pants that fit him fine in the spring are now four inches too short. So out I go and blithely buy him pants that are sized to match his age. And every time I discover they are either enormous around the middle and/or a foot too long.

Now, before you say it, I know that kids come in all shapes and sizes. I happen to think my two are perfectly average. They don’t appear drastically taller/shorter/thinner/fatter that their peers. (I couldn’t tell you their percentiles because their pediatrician never tells us — he’s a firm believer in not labeling kids and I love him for it.) I also know that kids have random growth spurts. One day you can’t get more than a slice of cucumber in them. The next, they’re chowing down on an 8-oz steak and a gallon of milk.

So, dear retailers, here’s a plea from me and, I suspect, parents everywhere: please don’t label clothes aspirationally. I mean we all know that kids are going to grow — it’s their job. But I’d very much like to walk into a kids clothing store and purchase clothes with the confidence that, if it says 7, it’ll fit an average 7-year-old. At least until the next growth spurt. On the flip side, when you label things 8-10 (I’m looking at you Target), that’s way, way, way, too large a bet too hedge.

Because here’s the thing: kids are usually proud of their age. My 7-year-old does not want to have to wear clothes for 5- or 6-year-olds because the stuff labeled 7 won’t fit her until she’s 8 or 9. My 9-year-old doesn’t want to continue to wear pants labeled 7 because they are the only ones the fit his waist: but the ones labeled 8-10 could fit a giant, by comparison.

By the way, we kept my daughter’s new shorts even though they could drop down to her knees with one jiggle too many. Fortunately, we have safety pins that will have to keep them up until her 7-year-old body decides to expand sufficiently to fit these shorts labeled 6-7. Maybe by this time next year, they will fit.
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Kids and Shoes and the Empty Wallet

As previously noted, I’m not a big fan of feet. The only exception being babies and little kids’ whose feet  have yet to become marred by age, ill-fitting shoes, ingrown toenails, hairy toes, and general ugliness and stinkiness.

But the real screw-over when it comes to kids and their feet are … shoes. The reality of this great rip off is you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Your options:

  1. Spend an extraordinary amount of money on well-made, nicely-fitted shoes like Stride Rites. Only to have your child grew out of them in roughly 8-10 weeks.
  2. Spend as little as possible at Payless or Target on questionably-made but OK-fitting shoes. Only to have them fall apart due to wear and tear in roughly 8-10 weeks.

Given that I naturally err on the side of being cheap, I usually go for option 2 but always regret it as the day inevitably and all-too-quickly arrives when there’s a huge rip in the toe or the insides fall out or the fasteners no longer fasten.

I was mighty impressed when the new – cheap – sneakers I bought my kids back in June survived the 8-9 weeks of summer camp. Yes, they were filthy and worn but they still worked. But a week at Disney pushed them over the edge. Perhaps it was the 4-5 miles walked each day in 95 degree heat and humidity that finished them off. Or maybe it was the soaking they received on our final day, followed by an hour spent in the drier so they’d be dry enough to wear on the journey home.

Either way, one pair came home with rips and holes. The other pair more or less survived – except for the fact that I managed to leave them behind in our hotel.

So today both my kids are proudly sporting nice new sneakers. Bought on the cheap. Should last us till – oh, Halloween if we’re lucky.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

A Random Post About Circles

I’ve been thinking about circles lately. The way my life is full of them and what they represent, especially as a parent. In Judaism, the bagel symbolize the eternal cycle of life – and I guess eating one of them recently set me off on this trajectory of cataloging some of the circles in my life. Here are just a few:

  • Looping from room to room picking up Legos, socks, and other random stuff and them depositing wherever they supposed to be.
  • Hugs and more hugs.
  • My circle of Mom friends, so essential to my sanity.
  • The sparkling three rings I wear on my ring finger – marking our engagement, our wedding and our five year anniversary.
  • My Google+ Circles – not that I am using them much.
  • The daily drive to preschool, school, to the office and then back all over again.
  • The endless laundry – from hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper …
  • Holding hands around the dinner table on a Sunday when we each say what we are thankful for.
  • Target.
  • Waffles, pancakes, pizza, crackers, cookies – and of course, bagels!

Coming next, the impact of rhomboids on my life.

Just kidding.

Really.

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