By Jason Offutt
Being the parent of a second grader and a kindergartener I always expect one child to be happy and one child to be angry at any given time.
So I didn’t expect picking them up from their first day of school to be any different. The question was, who would be the happy one?
Would it be the Girl? She loved nothing more than showing off in front of a captive audience, such as a classroom of fellow 5-year-olds. Or, would it be the Boy, whose favorite parts of school were lunch, recess and going home?
The Boy bounded out of the school building looking like he’d won the Second Grade Lottery (the winnings of a Second Grade Lottery would undoubtedly include a year’s supply of Smarties and a real live Pokémon). The Girl walked slowly up to me wearing storm clouds.
Not what I expected.
“Did you have a good day?” I asked.
“Yeah,” the Boy shouted. I expected a “stupid math,” or maybe a “stupid reading,” but not “yeah.” He must have eaten corn dogs for lunch.
I turned toward the Girl. “How about you?”
“No.” Her pout was epic.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked, expecting to hear something traumatic had happened at school. Such as standardized test results put her career options at, 1) roady for a death metal band, or 2) an executive at NBC. Or maybe the lunchroom served vanilla pudding instead of chocolate. In hindsight, either of those would have been much easier to cope with.
“Somebody was dressed cuter than me,” she said.
Oh, no. It’s started. On the first day of kindergarten, the Clothes War had begun.
The Clothes War is an unspoken conflict between young girls in which there is no blood, no exchange of land or political prisoners, and no winner. I repeat NO WINNER.
The Clothes War begins when one girl sees another girl (often her best friend) dressed cuter than her. They might be all smiles at the water fountain, but if one wears a pink skirt to school, it’s the Battle of Trafalgar all over again.
This took me off guard. In my head the Clothes War wasn’t supposed to begin until at least sixth grade. I’m wrong a lot.
The morning of the second day of school, the Girl stepped into the kitchen wearing the flower girl dress and matching heels she wore at her uncle’s wedding. Take that, Little Miss Dress Cuter Than Me.
“You’re not wearing that,” my wife said.
Wow, the Girl looked fancy. That outfit would have reduced Little Miss to tears.
“Yes, I am,” the Girl said, stomping her foot. She quickly learned Mom wins because she’s bigger.
This continued until the morning of the fifth day of school when the Girl found all the clothes removed from her room except one plain outfit in her closet. One. Period. No flower girl dress, no ballet skirt, no sparkles or sequins; nothing more than jean shorts and a T-shirt.
Mom 1, the Girl 0.
Oh, yeah, I’m keeping count. Let’s just see what the scorecard looks like when the Girl reaches high school.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.