It started on his fourth birthday.
The niece I’ve known and loved since she was 10 years old was marrying the man of her dreams (and ours for her!) in our hometown, and our crew had traveled to Ohio to participate in the big day.
As a New Year’s Eve baby, Superhero 4 was already going to experience quite the celebration for his first birthday at home. (I mean, not everyone gets sparklers and midnight toasts on their birthday every year!) But with a wedding AND a holiday on the same day as his first birthday inside the fams, the celebration this year skyrocketed to a whole new level. (Someone please tell my child that he will not be indulging in a three-layer professionally baked and decorated cake he assumed was “his birthday cake” every year. Nor will he be dancing until midnight. Dear Jesus, please lower his expectations and undo everything we just ruined by letting him think this 200-person party was for him. Amen.)
We held an extended family pajama and pancake breakfast for our little man the day before the big event, and our team of six took Superhero 4 out to a Mexican lunch before we headed to the hotel to get dressed up for the big day. (He now knows all the English words to “Happy Birthday,” which he happily sang to himself when our server brought him his very own birthday flan.)
But the real fun began when his brothers began getting dressed.
Can I just be honest? The older boys are kind of ring bearer and usher pros. (Need a guide to being a ring bearer mama? Read our post from last summer’s wedding season HERE. Hint: Offers of endless snacks they're normally not allowed to eat and Tide to Go fix all things.) Superhero 1 has made appearances in five weddings, and his little brothers have followed suit.
And ALL of them hate getting dressed up in one.
So as they grouchily donned their suspenders and bowties and the “why-are-dress-up-clothes-always-so-itchy” shirts and rigid, “too-tight-my-sweaty-feet-can’t-move-in-these” shoes, their littlest brother just sat on the ground, observing this strange phenomenon where his brothers all dressed in matching pink and white outfits.
Our niece had planned her wedding and asked the older three to be a part of it before Superhero 4 ever came home from China, and we knew that asking a little boy five months home from a foreign country to attempt to walk — or in his case, crawl — down the aisle in front of dozens of guests, would be a recipe for, well, disaster.
But we also knew that Superhero 4 loved to match, and he loved to belong. So, even though he wasn’t an official part of the wedding, we planned in advance for him to don the same outfit as his brothers, minus the suspenders we were too cheap to order in his size.
As I got him dressed in his coordinating shirt and pink bowtie, this stylish boy’s eyes just sparkled.
“Superhero 4 bowtie! Superhero 4 bowtie!” he cried again and again, pointing to each brother and then pointing to himself to let them know that he, too, got to play the itchy-dress-up-clothes game with the crew.
“Superhero 4 birthday, Superhero 4 bowtie!” he announced, lifting his chin and wiggling his shoulders as he beamed with fashion pride.
I lifted him up to the mirror to take a look at his handsome now-4-year-old self, and he grabbed my chin, turned it toward him and said, “No, Mama. Superhero toufa [Chinese word for “hair”]!” He then leaned down to grab the bottle of spiking gel from the counter and hand it to me.
“Bowtie. Toufa. Superhero 4 handsome.” (Five months home and this little man is putting together three-word instructions like a pro.)
I died as he then made a triangle shape on top of his head where he wanted me to spike his hair, the same way Superman used to do when he first came home from China, and then I happily applied the gel that turned this little superhero into what his daddy called a “studmuffin.” (Because Daddy grew up in the 80s. And is old. And hasn’t learned any new lingo since 1985.)
And thus began the obsession with the bowtie. And the spiked hair. And the insistence that he no longer make an appearance in this world without both.
He rocked them out with fashion pride at his birthday-wedding party as his daddy had the honor of dancing with the bride.
He rocked them out at midnight when all of the dru—err, happy, people in the room lifted their glasses in a toast. That he probably thought was just for him.
He even rocked them out a few hours later when the fire alarm in our hotel sounded at 4 a.m. and Superspouse, without the energy or time to change him from the clothes he’d fallen asleep in upon leaving the wedding celebration, raced with him and two of his brothers out the hotel door. In only socks. Into the snow.
And then he refused to ever take his precious bowtie off.
We’re talking EVER.
So for the last two weeks, thanks to the decade-old box of stored clothing that Superheroes 1 through 3 despised and refused to wear (I knew my hoarding ways would come in handy), Mr. Fashion has donned bowties and neckties (which he still calls “bowties”) every. Single. Day.
He wears them to therapy.
He wears them to “school.”
He wears them for free play, fun play, yard play and game play.
He even wears them to sleep (and wakes up in a panic after nap time looking for the clip-on “bowtie” that has fallen off in his hour of thrashing about).
And God help the human who tries to remove the formalwear from Mr. Fashion.
May his demolished eardrums rest in peace.
For five entire seconds, I fought this insistence that our superhero be clad in dress-up clothes and designer hair every single day. I mean, he has an entire closet full of cute hand-me-down clothes that I need to photograph and text to my friends in casual, just-dropped-this-off-topic-picture-of-the-cutest-kid-known-to-man texts from now until kingdom come.
And then I asked myself what on earth I was doing when, for the first time in my life, I had a superhero who INSISTED on brushing his hair AND his teeth AND donning the clothes I only dreamed about putting on my child as a first-time mama nearly 12 years ago.
(Wait for it, boymom friends who are hiding in the shadows of favorite nasty-smelling sweatshirts and gross, too-short jeans. Your day, too, may come.)
And so we’re embracing it. We’re rolling with it. And now, we’re totally abusing it.
The potty training we started last month? Not exactly going stellar.
I even sold my morals for a canister of miniature M&Ms to bribe the little man to put his pee pee on the potty. (Spicy boy is as stubborn as he is sweet and simply looked at me, handed me the M&M and said, “Superhero 4 no likey. No potty.” And then proceeded to pee that day on the ground.)
But the bowtie? That’s something this little fashionista just cannot live without.
So we changed the rules.
Pee pee for bowties. No pee pee, no bowtie. (Because, I mean, when was the last time you saw a formalwear model in his diaper?)
And wouldn’t you know, today, potty training is going just great.
#notevensorry #M&Mshavenothingonthebowtie #formalwearforthewin