You know you’re a parent when you wake up in the dark, look at the clock and see it’s 7 a.m., realize that the kids are still asleep, and jump out of bed with excitement that you might have a few minutes alone with a cup of tea in a quiet house. Oh, and it’s a Sunday morning. That was me this morning — tiptoeing down the creaky staircase, willing the boys to keep sleeping after a late night.
Of course, by the time I washed my face and steeped my tea and was about to sit down at the computer, I heard the inevitable footsteps upstairs and a shrill little voice: “Mommy!” (Why do they always call me? Daddy gets to roll over and cover his head with a pillow.) “Can I wear my sweatsuit today?” “Sweatsuit is fine,” I call back, then, “Daddy’s upstairs.” Ha, I’ve successfully diverted future inquiries to a more convenient source.
The aforementioned sweatsuit is a daily battle. My son A. possesses a wide range of full-piece sweatsuits that he loves with a passion. They were sent to him by Croatian relatives because, as Jason explained to me, the sweatsuit is the essential clothing item that every Croatian child grows up wearing daily. I can understand A.’s attraction to their loose, cozy comfort, but after the intense use that he gives them, some have begun to look extremely ratty. The polyester material is misshapen, worn, and fuzzy, and there’s a perpetual layer of bally lint that’s especially noticeable on the dark navy tops.
That’s why I now insist that he restrict his sweatsuit use to play days at home, while trying to dress up a little bit more when he goes to school – or at least choose the less worn-out sweatsuits. A. doesn’t like this restriction and we’ve had many an early-morning tantrum over his sweatsuits. “Jeans make my legs cold!” he shrieks. Fair enough, so try these cords. “I hate cords.” Four-year-olds, I’ve discovered, have very strong opinions about their outfits.
I certainly didn’t intend to think about sweatsuits in detail this morning, but now that I am, I realize that sweatsuits are an interesting cultural item. They were not particularly common among the Canadian kids I grew up with, especially not the matching two-piece kind. Someone might wear a pair of sweatpants with a hoodie, but matching was not cool. By contrast, I think they’re common in Europe. When I moved to Italy at 16, my classmates were shocked that I didn’t own a sweatsuit for two reasons:
1) Who doesn’t own a sweatsuit?!
2) The Italian word for sweatsuit, very ironically, is canadese, which literally translates as “Canadian.” Of course they’d assume that Canadians are really into sweatsuits.
It must have been different in urban areas with more European immigrants, as Jason has proven. He grew up wearing sweatsuits, as did our friend Eleanor, who has an Italian background. She told us once, “I had two sweatsuits, a pink one and a blue one. I usually wore the pink bottoms with the pink top, and the blue bottoms with the blue top, but on days when I was feeling really cool, I’d mix the pink bottoms with the blue top, or the blue bottoms with the pink top.” We had a good laugh about that.
I know… I shouldn’t sweat the sweatsuit stuff too much.