“No Shirts with Animals…”

This is one of the many regular arguments I have my son Maalik.  The first time he said it, I had NO idea what he meant.  I don’t buy shirts with lots of graphics (except the occasional vintage looking superman or batman shirt).  I think kids can look like kids, and you can let them indulge in their favorite characters on occasion without them looking like the Disney store threw up on them. 

So we have play clothes, going out clothes and school clothes.  His favorite are his play-clothes.  If it was up to him, he’d wear the same superman shirt and flip-flops every single day. 🙂

So one day, we’re going out to a Eid party and I get him a polo shirt.  First of all, he was OBSESSED with those pique, 3 button polo type shirts last year.  It’s all I bought because it was all he would wear :).  He looked like he was going golfing every time we left the house (and if I combed his hair to the side, a little Republican :P).  Anyway this year, no buttons and no animals.  I can occassionally get away with a button down shirt after much goading, but he’s really adament about the animals. 

Initially, I thought he meant no shirts with pictures of animals, which isn’t a problem because, we don’t really own many.  No, apparently, he has it out for Ralph Lauren’s little polo guy, along with the GAP teddy bear (on toddler clothes), and the Old Navy lion or whatever that little thing is they embroider on their shirts.  Most of the time, because I had nothing else, I would just force him to wear it, which would bring on a fight, because he can’t always have his way and there is a time and place for everything.

Then I thought a little bit about it, and while I have a point, in a weird way, unintentionally, so does he.   I kept thinking, I am ingraining in his head that this little symbol = nice.  He could care less about name brands, and I, along with many other parents, dress our children to satisfy ourselves.  But as they grow up, they start making the association, and in that, there lies the first steps of instilling materialism into our children.  While we should dress our children nicely, and show them there is pride in presenting yourself well, this isn’t the same thing.  Last year I clearly remember a girl in Kindergarten arguing and crying with her mother because her mother was going to buy her EMU boots, rather than UGGS.  She was 5!  It was a little mortifying that she even knew the difference.

I’ve heard the “quality” argument, and I make it too.  I believe in quality.  I think GAP has nice quality clothing for children.  I think it’s probably equally as good in quality as a similar shirt or pair of jeans for $80 or $100, that a child will outgrow in a few months.  I also think it’s different for an adult to buy a few quality (or rather high-end) pieces that may get much use and last them over time, than investing in an item that may be worn once or twice over a 4 to 6 month period before it gets shelved or disgarded.  You’re just not getting your money’s worth at that point.

So although my son is just doing this because he’s stubborn and it’s a phase that he will probably outgrow in a few months until he finds his next favorite (and hated) articles of clothing, it really made me think more about the way we raise our children to value certain things.  I’m not even really sure what the answer is, because, no one wants their child to be the outcast or to feel like they are doing less for their child.  But I guess that is also a reflection of what we value as well.  Perhaps spending more on a child shouldn’t be how we measure our love for them, but rather by the quality of time and activities we do with them.  I know for a fact that for young children, this is definitely more prized.

So…after searching far and wide, I found a store that sells uniforms with short and long sleeve polo shirts in a myriad of colors.  No logos, no nothing …and I bought him a bunch of plain polo style shirts.  I still have the other shirts, and I’d like for him to wear them, but I guess I realized forcing the issue will only ingrain in his head that I associate nice with these little symbols, and I don’t want to reinforce that.  When he’s ready, he can wear them, and I will offer the plain shirts and the ones with the little symbols in the same sitting and let him choose.  I want him to know they are both equally as good, and you wear something because it is nice, and you like it, and not because one might have a higher “value” in the eyes of others.

I’m not saying I won’t continue to buy some of these things.  I like nice things, and I have a shallow side I suppose, but I think, I hope I can be much more wise and conscious in what I place importance on, and what I put value on in front of my kids.

May Allah (swt) make me steadfast in my resolve, help me value those things that deserve being valued, and make me content and comfortable in what I’ve been blessed with, and help me protect my children from overly valuing material things that only bring a moment of gratification.

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