The shirt somehow came into the house, probably on the back or in the gym bag of one of the plethora of kids that visit or spend the night and typically, wound up in the hamper. It was a grey t-shirt with large orange block letters exclaiming Just Do It and after washing, went into Youngest’s dresser drawer; it was his size and while I didn’t recognize it, I put it there just so that it had a place and wouldn’t wind up in yet another of the piles of stuff that litters the household. My thought was that I’d figure out the owner later when some of the guys wound up here. But when Youngest came down for breakfast before school the other morning, he was wearing the shirt. I looked at it and then the clock as he’d pushed the time to the limit before having to scoot for the bus. It wasn’t one that we considered school appropriate but it was an instance that I decided to let slide with a warning, just so you know, that shirt isn’t returning to school after today. He glanced at me and asked why he couldn’t wear it and in that moment, I had to stop and think carefully before responding, mindful of the time and yet still wanting to give him a coherent answer.
Bill Cosby has mined a huge amount of material from his kids and the brief comment that stays with me about children is the question and response, Why is there air? To blow up basketballs. The core of the response is that kids are curious and want an answer, but they don’t have the attention span and will tune out the response until they get a bit older, so you’d better keep it short. When to start going into greater depth is dependent upon your sense of the kid and the circumstances. He was curious, without attitude and there was enough to get a decent response without a curt because I said so. I asked him to wait a moment while thinking about a decent answer; you know how much money corporations make, and that you’ve heard me say that they have too much power, right? It bothers me that we pay money for the shirts with these taglines that give them free advertising on top of the money that we’ve already spent. It winds up giving them even more money and makes us nothing more than another tool.
He cocked his head in that way of his and then asked, well what about Under Armour? They have their logo on their shirts and even on my cleats. Do I have to give up the cleats?
I shook my head. I don’t have a problem with a logo by itself…almost everything has a logo and that’s all part of advertising. But when it’s so huge and obviously just an ad for their tag line, then I think that we can do without it. At some point you say enough and that shirt is past that point. I considered having him go upstairs to change it after the comment, but the exchange was so measured and without angst that I figured that one day would be fine; the shirt would simply never make it back from the next load of wash. Youngest nodded and went back to finishing off breakfast and afterwards, the shirt went on its sole trip to school.
There have been plenty of times when the situation hasn’t worked, either because the kids resisted the request which made for a problematic civil conversation or because I couldn’t find the right words to get the point across. But when it works, it can be a beautiful thing for the brevity and effect and with younger kids, brevity is better. When it came time that evening for baseball practice, I glanced at Youngest’s cleats. Under Armour makes cleats?