Take it from Tracy: Looking Proper

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

For years I saw myself as the mother of a little girl, dressing her as my own mother did with me and my younger sister. My reality check came in 2002, when I delivered a beautiful baby ... boy.

As every mother knows, in those last few months of pregnancy gender is a non-issue - you're just praying for a healthy baby. And it didn't take long to discover that dressing a little boy can be a blast too, with those tiny blue jeans, polo shirts and, yes, even Burberry khakis (I just could not resist).

Of course, I have become much more practical now. It was easier when Ian was younger and let me "style" him. That fizzled somewhere around the second grade when Ian discovered "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." He became fixated on emulating Will Smith's character (which is hysterical since there hasn't been a new episode in about 15 years).

"Mom, can I look cool today?" he'd ask.

"What does that mean?" I'd respond. To my relief - and my husband's - it usually meant wearing a shirt untucked and jeans instead cargo pants, corduroy slacks or khakis.

We try not to put a lot of focus on clothing - only that it should be clean, coordinated and seasonally appropriate. For the most part Ian subscribes to this philosophy.

On Sundays, for example, he knows he will most likely be in a dress shirt and pants. He calls this "looking proper" and he's quite cooperative. But the minute we get home from church, he beelines for his room and more comfortable threads.

"Looking proper" takes on an entirely different meaning when dressing for school. In Ian's world, it is a total embarrassment to "look proper" at school. I try not to fuss, unless it's picture day when, yes, Mommy wants a picture of her boy looking proper. While I don't demand he wear a tie, I do strongly push for a shirt with a collar.

As I write this, it occurs to me that in the world of dressing a boy, the challenge is more personal - as in: it's my problem, not my son's. I have had to release my tendency to fret over what Ian wears. In my mind, it's a reflection of my skills as a mother.

Yes, I'm a little fanatical about making sure his outfits match, and that they're wrinkle-free. Over the past year, I've yielded a bit on the ironing because after five minutes on the playground, my hard work on creases and collars is for nothing.

The bottom line is that dressing Ian is a small part of my role as his mother. I realize there will be a time very soon when he will not appreciate or tolerate my input. So for the sake of an easier morning rush, making the school bus and even less ironing, this year we'll stick with the following rule on clothing: As long as it's clean, coordinated (just a little) and seasonally appropriate, Ian can wear it.

Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.