Getting a 3 year old dressed

Is a daily act of heroism

Dressing a 3 year old warrants a process that starts with anticipating it’ll take five-to-seven times longer than you imagine. I give Julian oatmeal for breakfast first because it’s bound to end up on his shirt. After the oatmeal we proceed to his room, but he insists I get dressed first. He doesn’t like the shirt I’ve put on so he slams his feet against the freshly painted white wall while screaming—until I change it, he says, but I won’t. 

Fifteen minutes pass like this; the tantrum moves from one room to the next, until he’s suddenly abandons this charge and moves onto the next. I offer him three t-shirts for starters; the one with the pattern of surfers he screams at, the one with the stripes he throws in the laundry hamper in anger. The third one is light purple—a color he now claims he hates—and also asks why I didn’t know that he prefers dark purple despite buying the light purple at his insistence six months ago. 

We’ve made no progress on the shirt, but now he’s on the bed rolling around—naked—claiming he’s too tired to put on pants. “It’s hot” he says. “I don’t like being hot, so I can’t wear clothes,” he argues, sounding almost reasonable. “Remember once you took me to school with no pants,” he recounts, an incident I’d rather not, that clearly made a traumatic mark.

He looks for his rainbow shirt (it’s in the laundry), and a blue and red striped Oshkosh shirt (also in the laundry), pulls three other long-sleeves out of the drawer and throws them on the floor. I suggest a blue t-shirt with hot air balloons, one he wears often and was my brother’s in the late 80s, purchased at a hot air balloon festival in the small upstate town of Greenville. “Sure,” he says, as though we hadn’t been debating this for thirty-five minutes. “I like that one.” 

Before he can put it on he wants to read an Eric Carle book about the moon. “What happens if you eat the moon?” He asks. “Will you float up?” I appreciate the question but i’m so…bored from he time we’ve been negotiating the shirt, that I have no time to entertain a whimsical answer. All I can think about is how my coffee is in the other room and how we’re never going to ever make it to school on time, even though I know when the time comes, we just will.

My shorts suggestions are also rejected. Light green linen pants are even more violently rejected because of our recent listening to the Dr. Seuss story “The Pale Green Pants,” in which a pair of ghostly pants take on a personality. It’s going to be hot out, but he decides he’d like jeans. I don’t fight it, but when I tell him the jeans are in the other room, he’s mad that I’ve called then “jeans” instead of “blue jeans.” 

At the 55 minute mark he has on a t-shirt and jeans, no undies, no socks, no shoes. I’m exhausted. It’s 8:35 a.m. He picks a book off the shelf and asks me if the Titanic sank in the same ocean as where the Bermuda Triangle is. “Yes,” I say, it sure did. “Oh, that’s great, he says,” immune to the scale of tragedy. “So…can I have a snack now?”

Recommendations quick list:

Hope you are finding ways to entertain your children, get your work done, drink your coffee in peace, and go for a swim at this tail end of summer.

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