I circled December 1 on the calendar with a neon green Sharpie. It was the day my children were to wear pants. I have two boys—13 and 16—with an affinity for wearing shorts . . . in the winter.
Why Are They Wearing Shorts in Winter?
“No one wears pants,” said my high schooler and makeshift lawyer, Grant, last November, making the case for him and his brother, Cameron.
Their refusal to embrace pants—even the thinnest of polyester sweatpants in below freezing temperatures—forced me to institute the shorts deadline. This was my best attempt (or last resort) at shielding their legs from the elements.
“It’s not gonna work,” my husband Mark said.
December 1 arrived and I stood my ground, brushing off the boys’ rebuttals as an occupational hazard. They begrudgingly donned pants and arrived home after school, sweaty and annoyed. The temperature had soared into the 70s.
“I was so hot, I can’t believe you made us wear pants,” Cameron said.
The next morning, I relented, and their smiles returned as they walked to the bus stop with their nylon shorts flapping in the early winter’s wind. I fully intended to set a new deadline, so after school that day, I greeted them with a tale of woe from my own teenage past.
My mother occasionally blessed our foreheads with holy oil—in the shape of a cross—when we ventured out to a concert or date with a new boyfriend. It wasn’t a big deal until the day I broke out in acne in the exact pattern the oil was applied—a cross. No makeup could camouflage it; the prominent outline remained. For a week at least, I sported my pimply cross through the high school halls, and on the basketball court and football field, where I led cheerleaders in dance routines.
“That is so lame, Mom,” said Grant.
I appreciated the empathy, but I was hoping my anecdote would help my boys bridge the gap. As a teen, I’d gone along with my mom even when I didn’t want to because it gave her comfort. She was my mom. Couldn’t my children appease me with a measly pair of pants? It’s my job to keep them dry and warm, and I shivered at the thought of their exposed limbs in winter’s grip.
Though my pants-averse children chuckled, there was no swift agreement to break up with the shorts.
“It’s a guy thing,” my husband said. “When they’re cold, they’ll wear pants.”
And so, I chucked the deadline and let go. For this, I also looked back to my parents. They’d often responded to our teen shenanigans with, “When you’re ready, let me know.” They’d relied on reverse psychology and a healthy dose of patience. So too, would I.
I busied myself with purchasing long-enough pants for the big pants debut.
December did become blustery; Cameron did catch a cold. Could he have avoided it with a practical pair of slacks? We’ll never know.
“I don’t feel well,” he said.
Groggy from Tylenol, Cameron opted for an early bedtime. Each evening, the boys usually yell good night, Walton’s style, from their rooms. That night, I peeked into Cameron’s room and glimpsed Grant’s lanky body hugging Cameron. He took his thumb and blessed his brother’s forehead, making the sign of the cross. Brotherly “I love yous” followed.
It was then I knew—pants or not—I must be doing something right.