I live in a small town, a rural paradise that's half old farmland, half bedroom community for bigger cities nearby.
One of the benefits of living among fewer than a thousand people is knowing folks and sharing things. All of the children in our town pretty much grow up together as a unit, which means most of the parents clump together as well. We pool resources like rides to soccer games, piano practice time, weekend slumber parties, and, inevitably, hand-me-down clothing. If a person didn't want to buy a single stitch of clothing for their children from ages 0-15, they could probably manage just fine on leftovers from our town. Some things get passed on intentionally with a flourish and a smile, some by accident through the school's lost-and-found, and plenty of items just show up on your doorstep with a note saying, "Your kids look about this size now. Mine have outgrown it."
Some family friends brought by a box of clothing the other day for our son. This was no surprise. We do the same for their daughter in return. It all works out.
Sometimes hand-me-downs are of questionable quality, but in this case my boy struck gold. All he could talk about for the next few days was his new "Shiny Shorts". I was busy for a few days and didn't see him much, so I had no idea what these "Shiny Shorts" were, but he was sure proud of them! His enthusiasm is contagious, so I was happy too.
Over the recent holiday weekend I had a little more free time so I suggested we go out to the driveway to shoot hoops. His face lit up immediately. "I can wear my Shiny Shorts!" I smiled and told him to go get them on.
Imagine my surprise when he came out like this:
In case you missed it, here's a close-up of those shorts.
Oh God, L*kers colors. Breathe, don't panic. Don't overreact. Maybe it's just a phase. Keep your face calm. Keep your voice neutral. You don't want to push him further into that lifestyle. Choose your words carefully... carefully... deep breath...
"Where the H-E-double hockey sticks did you get those???"
From the box, dad! Remember?
"Yeah, no. No son of mine is going to wear shorts like that."
But I love them. I wore them to school!
[stomach clenching] "You didn't! Did anybody see you in them?"
"OK, it's OK. We can fix this. Just get them off and we'll find a way to get rid of them."
No! They're my favorite! They're like the real basketball players wear!
"Not the GOOD ones, son! We might have to burn them while sacrificing chickens to remove the curse you've just put on this house."
Dad, there's no real curses.
"You're going to hear some real curses if I ever see you wearing those again!"
"Seriously, son. Remember when you were 2 and flushed your mom's wedding ring down the toilet and we never got it back? I hate you about 6 million times more right now than I did then."
At that point, enjoying his new-found power to torment me, the boy dug in his heels. I tried to explain about the L*kers and the cramp-inducing foulness of that color scheme but he was having none of it. He liked his Shiny Shorts. He was going to wear them proudly. He wanted me to be proud of them too.
Ha! That'll be the day.
But at a certain point, somewhere between reciting "Chapter Four: The Disappointment of 1991" and "Chapter Five: The Shaq Abomination", I looked at his innocent young face and realized that this wasn't just about me. My son is just starting to love basketball and he wants me to be happy with his basketball-related choices. But more than that, he wants to know that I love him no matter what. His Shiny Shorts aren't just about fabric colors and rivalries, they're symbolic of him pushing the edge, testing to see if I'll follow him that far. If I fail here, what's next? L*kers posters? Kobe Bryant rookie cards? Rooting against the Blazers when the two teams play?!?
Then I had the revelation that all fathers have at some point in their lives. Everything else is temporary; your boy is your boy forever. Whatever obstacles our children throw in our way as they grow upwards and outwards, a dad's love has to tower over all of them. Neither rain nor sleet nor hideous color schemes can overcome my responsibility and dedication to my child. He sacrifices a lot of dad time so I can talk with you folks every day. Maybe, just maybe, it was time for me to sacrifice something for him.
So yeah, I let him keep his Shiny Shorts. I suppose any good dad would. I tousled his head, told him I loved him, and we went out to the driveway to play basketball.
Then I blocked every shot that little 4'3" booger put up. Ain't NOBODY scoring in MY driveway wearing L*kers gear.
Besides, chasing rejected layups down the street will make those shorts wear out faster.