Ode to the "John John" and The Bishop

8 years ago

It’s official….I’m giving up.  I’m throwing in the towel…at least
where Will & Jack are concerned.  I’ll let you in on my distress.  I’m giving in
and dressing my boys in conventional clothes.  They are getting too old
to put them in “john johns.”  It’s just getting too hard to fight
them.   On the other hand, I still have George to dress.  George who is
19 months isn’t that hard to wrestle into a “john john.”  Will and Jack
are not so easily overpowered.   I’ll explain:

For the southern “Mama,”  it is an unwritten rule that children are
to be dressed a certain way.   Little boys are to wear longalls or
shortalls (a.k.a. “john john” in honor of J.F.K. Jr. who was
photographed under the desk of his father in the Oval Office wearing
such attire).  The "john john" is a one piece "overall type" garment that is usually worn with a white button down shirt with peter pan or portrait collars.  Little southern belles wear bishops, which are dresses
with no waist and long with three inch hems.  No little girl is
complete without a giant grosgrain bow pinned to her little head. 
Southern Mamas favor smocking, appliques, and fanciful prints.  We love
to dress our children in matching or theme clothes (Halloween,
Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, etc.).   In formal photographs, you
will see children in smocked clothes and in bare feet.  I don’t know
why….it’s just the way it is.  Maybe we just like for our children to
look like children.  Children grow up too fast anyway.  We just like to
prolong babyhood.  Who knows?  I do know that there will be a time when
all three of my boys will beg me to take down the 16 X 20 formal
photographs of them as three month old babies…all wearing the same
antique baptism gown that I wore as a baby.

Yes, I said gown.  Southern Mamas dress their newborn boys in
gowns…baptism gowns, christening gowns, day gowns.  Look, before
long…Daddy’ll have ‘em out there in a duck blind or on the golf
course.  Let us have our moment, OK?

Why am I distressed?  Well, once Will became a “big boy” and started
school, he starting wearing a uniform.  Will attends a private school
and I am most grateful that he wears the standard khaki pants and polo
shirt.  We don’t fight over clothes in the morning and it’s easy.  When
I caught a glimpse of my firstborn for the first time in his uniform, a
lump formed in my throat.  I shed a tear.  He looked so…. grown.
He doesn’t look so little anymore.  For mothers, you know when your
babies start looking more like children…they lose that precious baby
fat around their wrists, the face thins out, etc.  (sigh) Anyway, don’t
worry.  I would never even think to put him in a “john john” at this
point.  I certainly don’t want him to be picked on at Sunday School.

Jack is 3 and hasn’t reached the magical “cut-off” for the “john
john.”  However, Jack is tough looking….Bless his heart.  Jack never
looked right in a longall.  Jack looks more natural in camouflage or
cowboy gear.  He’s a little John Wayne.  So for Jack, he has escaped
having to spend another year suffering through my attempts to make him
look like Little Lord Fauntleroy.  It looks like Jack gets to jump
right into khakis and polo shirts.  I think he is secretly relieved.

George is another story.  I took smocking classes right after George
was born and learned to sew while I was pregnant with him.  I’ve made
several outfits for him and need to start on his Easter outfit now. 
However, I am tired….so very tired.  At the end of the day, after
putting everyone to bed, I just don’t know if I have the gumption to
sit up and whittle through a smocking project.  It’s just so easy to
pick something up off the rack at one of those chain stores.  Herein
lies the problem…

All of those chain stores cater to people who like for their
children to look like little adults.  There are exceptions to the rule
(Little Lambs & Ivy, Janie & Jack, Chocolate Soup, Strasburg). 
However, I am always shocked when I go into one of these “adult-like”
childrens’ stores and see leopard prints on little girls’ clothing or
t-shirts that say “Hottie” or “I’m the one your mother warned you
about.”  Who are they selling this crap to?  Pedophiles?

In the alternative, there are stores who sell clothes for little
boys that appear as their aim to have boys look like 45 year old
golfers, professional skate boarders, or pimps.  I’ll never forget a
gift that I received when Will was a baby.  A very well-meaning
relative sent us a suit for our three month old son.

A suit.

A three piece suit.

It was black pin stripes.

It came with shoes…and a tie.

Honestly, it looked like something you’d bury your child in.   I
didn’t know whether to laugh or be terrified of the outfit.  I thought
about dressing Will as one of the Blues Brothers for Halloween, but I
couldn’t find a little black hat.  I tried to sell it on Ebay and no
one wanted it.  I did get a question about the suit.  A woman in Oregon
wanted to know if it would fit her ten pound Yorkie.  I told her that
the tag said it is supposed to fit a three month old baby, but I didn’t
know about a little dog.  I never heard back from her.  I even tried to
put the suit in a garage sale, but it didn’t sell.  I finally gave it
away to Goodwill.  Maybe someone thought it was “precious” and felt
lucky to have the thing.

I realize that I’m tired from running after three little boys all
day, but unless I want George to look like Tony Hawk at Easter, I
better get busy on that “john john.”  Oh, the plight of the southern

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