I took my teenage sons clothes shopping the other day.
These outings are akin to Chinese water torture. My boys grovel and complain the entire time. They would rather be anywhere than inside a dressing room while I throw them 10 more pairs of pants.
Getting all slicked up and ready for a new school year is not enticing for them. It is a big fat waste of time.
After casting aside a mound of rejected sizes, we find just the right jeans. My son Jackson says, "Great. I'll take three pairs."
"Don't you want to mix it up a bit?" I ask him. "A pair of black jeans or gray jeans thrown in there?"
"Nope," he says. "These are good."
And when we find the exact right black polo shirt, he hands it to me and asks, "Should we get four more?"
"Four more! Of the same kind of shirt?"
"Of course. Then I don't have to think about it. That's what Steve Jobs did."
It's at about this point I regret letting Jackson ever read the Steve Jobs biography. Given the choice between listening to his mom or following the Apple Inc. icon, he'll always choose Jobs.
"You can't wear the same thing to school every day," I tell him. "Even if it's a clean shirt, it will still look like you're wearing the same thing every day. And how will you tell the difference between the clean shirt and the dirty one?"
"Yeah," Jackson admits. "That was a problem for Steve." He tells me that Jobs had a personal assistant just to make sure he kept up on his personal hygiene. Which makes me feel better about carrying emergency teenage deodorant in my purse.
Flip to my other teenager, who's been known to quote Warren Buffett during our family scripture study. He carries the Wall Street Journal business section under his arm every day to high school and day-trades stocks on the sly during biology.
Addison is all about what's practical. So when I hand him a two-toned, three-quarter length sleeve T-shirt to try on, he emerges in a frenzy.
"What is this?" he declares, flapping his arms. "It's not a short sleeve, it's not a long sleeve. No! Big no."
He wants shirts that have New York City splashed across them. After all, that is home of Wall Street, the beating heart of capitalism. He wants stylish but not overpriced — he is, after all, frugal like his mentor Buffett, who eschews luxury cars and mansions.
Most of all, he would like to escape the clothing store, because that's not where his investments lie. If we could shop for clothing at FedEx or General Electric, he would be all in.
We finally emerge from the store laden with five identical polos in various shades of black, gray and maroon (I at least persuaded Jackson to vary up the color), and an ample supply of jeans. My code-loving son is thrilled. He won't have to think about clothes for the next 12 months.
Addison is pleased with his New York shirts and classy jeans. He feels they are a good investment in his future as a high school freshman. He is also satisfied that we have done our part in contributing to the American economy.
I walk side-by-side with my teenage sons, dwarfed by their height and personalities. I am a technology-averse Luddite who has a general distrust of capitalist greed. I'm not sure where these two boys of mine came from. Perhaps it is the role of a child to color outside the lines drawn by the parent. Perhaps it is the role of a parent to accept that our children are not created in our image. Perhaps it is our role just to love, and love, and love.
And make sure they change clothes, just once in a while.