I'm now buying clothes for my kids in the actual kids' section, not the baby section.
Maybe it's because Kiedis is so thin I've managed to get by this long, but for Tova's birthday, when my far-away family asked what she wanted I said OMG CLOTHES because she'd grown two inches out of of everything length-related, I found myself in the baby section of Target armed with digital gift cards, looking at the options in 4T.
And not really liking much of what I saw.
I mean, it was cute -- some of it incredibly so -- but more and more I felt like the items were impractical for a preschooler, aside from looking like she'd be just one growth spurt away from outgrowing that, too. More and more when I thought I saw something I liked, once I got closer I'd realize it was a touch too infantile for my taste, too twee, and I was feeling rather empty-handed in a quest I usually very joyfully participate in.
So I took a deep breath and crossed the aisle.
When I worked retail, I worked in the kids & baby part of the store for the majority of my tenure, so I know how kids' sizing works and the intricacies of details like easy-off pants (for when kids are newly potty-trained) and gripper socks (so they don't die running around in their socks, mostly) and the difference between a 4T and a kids' 4 (the kids' 4 will be narrower in the waist and slightly longer in the leg but be a more similar cut to an adult style than the 4T) for starters. Never mind the price jump, oy.
But I still felt wholly unprepared to make this leap.
The big kids' clothes are slightly more mature -- which was kind of what I was looking for -- but especially when in the girls' section I felt for every thing I found that I liked, there were at least two that were completely inappropriate for Tova's age (and even older kids, in my opinion). I had to start making rules as I went; no words on the butt, no cutouts, no t-shirts with light entendre in the graphics, etc.
It was hard. I had to keep asking myself Despite you thinking it's cute, is it appropriate for a brand-new three year old? and finding myself putting back more things than I picked up.
It was a little bit easier in the boys' section, mostly because there's not a gross oversexualization of boys in our culture, but there was some troubling uber-macho dudebro crap to wade through, as you might expect in a mass retail big box situation. I never thought I'd like shopping for Kiedis more than I like shopping for Tova, but when it comes down to it girls' clothes are just an effing minefield disguised with glitter and ribbons in various shades of pink, whereas the boys' section is slightly more straightforward.
Gender discrimination works both ways, FYI. If you're going to have parameters for your daughter, you have to have them for your son, too.
While wandering around, I'd catch myself looking wistfully at the baby section, the little unstable toddlers and the babies in their car seats in their mom's carts while the adults held up little snap-crotch onesies and giggled and clucked over the preciousness of it all.
Then I'd sigh and realize that we're potty trained and the kids go to school and I've done my time, for better or worse, in that phase of our family's life. And with those little victories come some sacrifices, like shoving the pile of "too cute for math" t-shirts back on the shelf so they were barely visible to other shoppers because that's just shameful.
Soon enough, I know these kids are going to want to pick out their own clothes, and I'm going to have to let them. But for now, I find myself perusing both the baby and the kids' sections, shopping a little from both, unable to completely let go of my kids' babyhoods and fully embrace their childhoods.
Even if the pants do fit better on the other side of the aisle.