A few days ago, my sons brought down the boxes of summer clothes from the attic. Spring had sprung, and it was time to go through the clothes we put away in the fall to see which ones still fit.
There is always a lot of laughter during this process. The boys like to indulge in do-you-remembers that bring to life memories from previous summers.
A pair of shorts remind the boys of that trip to Charleston, when J had too much soda to drink and was desperate to use the bathroom.
E brings up the fun hours in the pool with his cousins and says he misses them and can’t wait to see them again.
And then there was that shirt J was wearing when he met a mermaid.
Folding the piles of clothes, listening to their chatter, I get to mark how much my boys have grown physically. It’s a bittersweet experience that leaves gratitude in its wake.
Growth means life, and life means time together.
This year, the boys have outgrown a lot of their clothes. And since they live in shorts from early Spring to early Fall, it was time to go shopping—a whole lot of shopping! S, my hubby, suggested we go thrift-store shopping.
He grinned at the boys, “You can buy whatever you want!”
When we finally made it to the store, I instructed both boys to look through the racks of clothes and see if they can find anything they like that fit them.
The boys stood at the entrance, uncertain. After a few minutes, they drifted off to the other side, where the toys and books and other stuff were on display. I went after them, pulling them toward where the clothes were.
They stood there for a bit, gave each other hesitant looks, then J shook his head, “I don’t see anything I like.”
We left soon after.
Without buying anything.
I’m still chewing on the whole experience.
S, to his credit, didn’t stress.
“I guess they didn’t have anything the boys wanted. We could go to another store next time.”
He wasn’t going to dig deeper, wasn’t going to overthink it.
Is it possible my sons are a wee too spoiled?
I know thrift-store shopping isn’t the same as a day at the outlets, but hey, thrift-store hipsters are actually a thing and doesn’t that make it cool? And why are garage sales fun, but this wasn’t?
I must confess, I live in fear my sons would grow up to be entitled young men who see the world as their playground, instead of being young men who will will hold passionately to some valiant purpose.
Or maybe I’m just obsessing.
I know I’m not the first parent to wish babies came with manuals.
I know there are many of us out there.
Sometimes, when I’m at Target arguing with E over why he doesn’t need any more Star Wars Legos, I look up into the eyes of another mother and I see support and understanding.
So I argue with renewed strength, until the boy realizes I won’t budge and he gives in.
Sometimes I hear wisdom.
“I’ve been there, and I feel like I need to let you know it’s okay to lose this battle. Seriously. ”
So I start to bargain, and win by buying a cheaper Lego set than the one E originally wanted.
And the day is saved.
Since giving birth to our first son, I’ve been watching parents I admire like a hawk, wanting to emulate their example. And now, with two years left before that son leaves the nest, I feel like I’m on a treadmill going uphill and crazy fast, my heart rate off the roof. I’m yelling for someone to turn the darned thing down to a flat, slower pace, because I’m hanging off the side and I obviously can’t keep up.
But there’s no one else in the room.
So I’m holding on for dear life, and sometimes the prayers I send up to heaven are just a jumble of mumbled expressions of fear and joy and sarcasm and humor and frustration.
But I trust the Holy Spirit understands.
I suspect there are no do-overs in parenting.
We mess up, and we either apologize or brush it off, and then we try again.
The scary part is we never know how each experience will mark our kids.
The encouraging part is there’s always grace.
God is bigger than all our attempts to make things right.
So I’m going to take the boys to more thrift-stores.
I think we will eventually find one they will like, because I asked around and apparently I should maybe take them to where the thrift-store hipsters go.
My sons may not be hipsters themselves, but they’ll recognize the tribe and the familiarity might bring them comfort. You know, because hipsters are more relevant to their generation than say, their aging parents always trying to teach them some object lesson.
It’s silly for me, a girl who wore *ukay-ukay before ukay-ukay was cool, to go to such lengths to get my boys to wear second-hand clothes.
But maybe I shouldn’t read too much into this.
Maybe, it’s just because it’s all new to them.
And maybe, just maybe, my boys do take after me, and they too see change as a dish best served with familiar sides.
*Ukay-ukay is what we call secondhand clothing back home in the Philippines. I think “ukay” came from “hukay,” the Filipino word for “dig.” Before ukay-ukay became the rage, secondhand stalls left most of their stuff in the big boxes they were shipped in, and one would have to dig through the piles of clothes in search for a possible fit. At least, this is how I remember it and thus, how I explained it to my boys.