Busy Mama: To a boy, it's 'ugly' if it's frilly and pink

Staff writerMarch 2, 2014 

Our oldest son grabbed one of my favorite sweaters off the coat rack with delight.

“Oh, this is perfect,” he said. “Can I borrow it? Tomorrow is ugly sweater day.”

I grimaced and said, “You know the flier said ugly Christmas sweaters, right? That’s not a Christmas sweater, honey. And, let’s be honest, it’s not really ugly either.”

We argued for a few minutes. My son insisted that I didn’t understand a kid’s definition of ugly.

Finally, my husband spoke up.

“When they say ugly, they mean old,” he said.

“Oh, well, that sweater is only a year old,” I said.

“I think they mean, well, you know, worn by someone who is — in their eyes — old,” my husband stammered. “Not that you’re old. You know how kids think grown-ups are old and all.”

It took a few moments for me to process this new idea. Apparently the new definition of ugly is something a kid would never wear in a billion years because only people who are like a billion years old would wear it?

Oh my.

I wasn’t sure how to take the news that our 8-year-old suddenly assumed that I was born during pioneer times — or worse, yet, dressed like an old fogey.

Was this not the same boy who — not very long ago, I must add — said, “Mama, why aren’t you as old as any of my friends’ moms?” It was the same wonderful summer that I was carded for buying an R-rated movie. I guess I should lose a bunch of weight and get my hair cut short more often.

I’ll be honest: I cursed karma a little as I stared in the mirror later that day.

I recounted with regret a time in my life when I thought anyone who was older than 30 was ancient, unfashionable and eligible for a senior citizen discount. I think I was, like, 21?

I didn’t have to look very closely to realize that I should probably order some of that age-reversing expensive wrinkle cream that Cindy Crawford sells on infomercials every weekend.

What were those, um, nonpigmented strays randomly sprouting from my hairline?

Since when did my eyebrows get so bushy?

And will those noisy kids get off my lawn already? Oh, wait. Those are my kids, so never mind.

After a momentary emotional breakdown that was similar to those you might see in a made-for-the-Hallmark-channel movie about a woman’s midlife crisis, I invited the boys upstairs to check out my other sweaters.

“Oh, look at this one, it’s so ugly,” they giggled.

“No, wait, look at this one.”

“No, this one!”

Clearly, they were having way too much fun poking at my wardrobe.

Finally, I decided to join the fun.

“What about this one?” I suggested, holding up a v-neck coral sweater.

“That’s the worst!” the oldest son said, doubling over in laughter.

“Gross!” the youngest one hooted.

They both said they could never wear anything that ugly — then they asked if they could check out their sister’s clothes.

And that’s when I realized that my husband had missed the translation, too.

Ugly wasn’t unattractive, and it didn’t mean old, either.

For my boys, ages 6 and 8, it means anything that’s frilly, sparkly or pink. You know, basically anything that — in their terms — an icky, smelly girl might wear.

Suddenly, I felt a lot younger — and better about my wardrobe.

Staff writer Lisa Pemberton is one busy mama with three children. Reach her at 360-754-5433 or lpemberton@theolympian.com.

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