It is 26 degrees. There is frost on the cars. A wind whips through the bare trees. My fourth-grade son barrels down the stairs. He is dressed in shorts, knee socks, and a t-shirt, ready to start his day.
My husband and I say nothing. It is a battle we no longer fight.
Our son wore pants in kindergarten when it was cold, no questions asked.
In first grade, our son started finding his voice and athletic style. He would bop around our room like a pinball on cold mornings, asking, “Why do I have to wear pants?”
He fell for our answers about getting in trouble with the principal, who sent emails about dressing appropriately for the weather. He wore pants out of obligation, not wanting to risk trading outdoor recess for sitting in the principal’s office.
In second grade, our son wisened up. He knew the email sent home was just the principal doing her job, recommending to parents how to dress their children appropriately in winter. He knew he wouldn’t lose recess privileges.
And he knew he wasn’t cold when he ran around outside in his signature shorts and knee socks.
After too many mornings of arguments and failed attempts at hiding his shorts, we came up with a compromise. He would wear leggings under his shorts if the temperature was below 32 degrees.
In third grade last year, he bucked that system, insistent upon wearing shorts every day to school, even if it was snowing.
The school staff and other parents question our choice to “let” him wear shorts, but it’s an unspoken understanding that he’s that kid who won’t be forced into pants.
“Choose your battles” is a common piece of advice for parenting. The shorts battle is not worth it.
There are bigger battles that we do need to and will continue to fight. Ones having to do with physical (contrary to popular belief, children do not bring home countless sicknesses because of wearing shorts in winter) and emotional well-being. Ones having to do with limiting screen time. Ones having to do with respect and responsibility.
And yet, on the topic of shorts, I have backed myself into a corner.
I see my female high school students regularly wear very short shorts when it is hot weather. I am not exaggerating when I say that part of their lower cheeks are exposed when they walk.
Technically speaking, it is not against the dress code. My interior monologue begins: How do their parents “let” them wear those shorts to school? Why do their parents even “let” such shorts be purchased? I certainly wouldn’t “let” my daughters wear such shorts in high school. There is no way my daughters would even want to wear such shorts in high school.
But then I realize it’s not my place to pass silent judgment. And some years from now, I should try my best to avoid spoken judgment if my daughters should want to wear shorts of a similar style.
Will I need to have conversations with my daughters about how people may react to them wearing such shorts should they want to? Yes.
Will it be the same type of conversation I had to have with my son about his shorts? Most likely not.