First Impressions

What he likes best, my 12 year old, is comfortable clothes. What he likes are sweatpants and t-shirts, sneakers and worn socks. He likes things that are broken in, soft, slouchy. 

Because of this, he spent the summer showing more and more of his ankles as his legs grew and his pants didn’t. He spent the summer with gaping holes at his knees and growing holes in his t-shirts. He spent the summer in stained, ratty clothes – familiar and freeing.

But September loomed and the week before school started, his dad insisted on clothing culling. Both boys dragged clothes from various drawers and dark corners and piled them up in giant heaps in the middle of the floor. Sizes were checked. Those things that were barely holding together were consigned to the rag pile. Items that were still in good shape but nonetheless did not meet individual style standards – such as they are – were gifted to the neighbors’ kids. Everyone agreed that having pants with intact knees and shirts without stains was a desirable goal.

Or so we thought.

On the first day of school, Mr. 12 appeared in the kitchen wearing perfectly respectable sweatpants (if there is such a thing) and a beloved but besmirched t-shirt. I pointed out the stain and asked if he would change it, just to humour me. He agreed. Moments later he returned… wearing a shirt dotted with several small holes. I maintained my composure but suggested that this shirt, too, should be changed. Mr. 12 was less enthusiastic about my second request.

At this point, his dad, somewhat chagrined, I think, by the reappearance of these shirts that he had assured me were gone, chimed in. “Have you ever heard the saying ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’?” Mr. 12 had not, and he agreed to change one more time.

And that was the end of that. 

Just kidding.

The next day, I only got a passing glance at my child as I scrambled out the door on my own way to work. His dad didn’t look too carefully either. This explains why we only noticed his less-than-new shirt (ok, it had holes. again) after the school day was firmly over. I shook my head and started to explain our “your shirts shouldn’t have stains or holes” theory – the simple idea that seems to be anathema to him. He listened patiently, then shook his head with mock sadness. “It’s ok,” he reassured us. “After all, I can’t make a first impression twice.” He skipped away, laughing.

Since then I’ve gone back to letting him dress however he likes.

Many thanks to twowritingteachers.org who have created this community where teachers practice and share their writing. What a gift!

12 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. Yep, on the second day of school it’s too late for a first impression. 🤣 It sounds as though 12 culled the rag pile. You’re gonna have to watch that. Maybe you’ll need to start quoting Shakespeare (“Clothes oft make the man.”) or hope 12 meets a girl he likes, which could both help the clothing situation and offer a whole new feeling of anxiety—for you, the parents!

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  2. I’m surprised he didn’t come back with “Don’t judge a book by its cover”! As a middle school teacher, I can assure you that his attire sounds very similar to that of many of my students.

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  3. You really painted a picture of your “Mr. 12” for us! I wonder if in six months he’ll be asking you to shop for the latest… it is an age of change.
    Your short interjections into the story add a great element of humor. I especially appreciated “and that was the end of that./ Just kidding.” Parents can relate, ha ha!

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  4. Well, you can’t argue with his logic about first impressions! There does come a point, however, in the near (too-near?) future when appearances (and smelling good) suddenly have great importance… I remember it so well with my boys. Yikes. One doesn’t know whether to celebrate or groan. Always love your witty writing, Amanda.

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  5. If it helps I remember those days with my son – who now in this 30’s is always in pressed pants, crips shirts and this weekend while visiting my grandson added a small light chalk mark to my son’s t -shirt – we could not even see it but he needed to change before we went out for a lunch and a long walk around the lake. My son Mr. Neat was once and hole wearing mess. Not any more!

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  6. A chuckle, don’t those of us with kids have tales that echo yours, and the brilliant smile that you have to give a kid who can quip so wonderfully well. Gotta love him! (Some battles are not worth fighting; they aren’t even battles.)

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  7. “After all, I can’t make a first impression twice.” ARGH! Mr. 12!

    We’re about to enter colder months and Mr. Sweatpants (Ari) is likely to re-emerge. That’s all he’s wanted to wear in the wintertime since the pandemic. Before that, he used to wear jeans and even button-down shirts. (He’s anti-buttons too.) Luckily, he’s still at an age where I can somewhat control what he wears, but it’s always a struggle. We had to negotiate about jeans and nicer shirts all of last year when we were going somewhere. This fall/winter should be interesting.

    Good luck getting Mr. 12 to realize that he should exit the house with pants that have intact knees and stainless shirts! Somehow, with your sense of humor, I know you’ll get through this!

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  8. Oh friend. We had an adventure this summer while Mr 21 was home. My spouse and I were sitting on the back deck one evening, when we heard the drier kick in. Knowing neither of us had a load going, we were intrigued. My husband investigated and returned to tell me that there was a single plain blue t-shirt flopping around in the drier. We knew that older kiddo was heading out to a club with friends that night, and assumed the events were connected. Thinking through my athletic son’s clothing choices, I realized this was likely his only shirt without a) holes; b)ground in dirt from mountain biking/cyclocross/playing ultimate; c) some sort of sporting equipment logo/slogan. We asked him later and he confirmed all of this, as well as the fact that it’s a nice colour. I think this is “dressing up” in my child’s universe!

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  9. Some mornings I’m really biting my tongue when my daughter (nearly 12) shows up at the breakfast table in her school outfit. She loves giant t-shirts and I always think they look sloppy. She says that’s the vibe she’s going for. 🙂 My son, however, wears whatever I lay out for him the night before! At some point I’m going to have to stop doing that, but this is not that month.

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