I remember the first time an adult commented on my child’s fashion sense.
It was when she was two years old. Our oldest daughter, B, and I were headed to the mall with my mom. She was determined to dress herself that day. It was not the first time she wanted to and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. B chose a pink shirt, crazy looking pants, that looked like paint was splattered on them, and leopard print dress shoes.
I took a good look at her and weighed my options. I could tell her to go change, quenching her own artistic and creative style. Force her into “matching” clothing, you know, just in case we get side eyed by a judgy person.
I could let her be proud of herself.
I chose the latter.
About two hours later, I was carting my highly mismatched child through Kohl’s, listening to her happy chatter when a grown woman and her daughter, who looked to be late teens early 20’s, passed by us. They both gave me the “side-eye” don’t you know how to dress your child woman, look. Then I heard the younger woman say “ugh, when I have my own children I will make sure they ALWAYS match.” B didn’t seem to notice.
I wasn’t offended. I chuckled at the naivety of this woman, who had said herself, she didn’t even have her own children yet. But she apparently knew what type of parent she was going to be and what type of child she was going to get. Congratulations to her. Those of us on the other side of this parenting gig know that’s not how it works. I kind of wished her mother would have replied the way I know my mother would have replied. “You should never say what you would do in a parenting situation when you haven’t been there Jenna, you really have no idea what you would do in any given situation until it actually happens. Don’t judge.”
Not that I am judgy now. But when I was younger, I was like most non parents, I knew exactly what I would do AS a parent. Until I had children. All that knowledge went right out of the window.
Like making sure your child is always matching. My children match probably 85% of the time. My oldest daughter is now 5 and a half and enjoys dressing herself. I enjoy seeing how excited she gets when she comes downstairs in yet another excentric outfit, eager to show it off. She knows what she likes. Gone are the days where mommy gets to pick out cute outfits for her and she didn’t have a choice but to wear them. I cannot tell you how many times she now wrinkles up her nose at an outfit and said “uh no mommy I am not wearing that.” I can still get away with picking out my youngest daughter’s outfits, but she is quickly following in her sister’s footsteps. B also struggles with tactile sensitivities. This is another reason I allow her to dress herself. She knows what feels the most comfortable on her own skin. Now don’t get me wrong. Many of the outfits she chooses do match and are quite cute. Then there are the ones that make you wonder how or why she came up with it.
Even though I let her dress herself, and I am sure most people out in public understand, it doesn’t stop us from getting the “look” from none other than grown adults. Adults who have nothing better to do except judge what children are wearing. I sometimes have the desire to go tell my child to dress in something not so bold or mismatched, but then I flash back to my own pre-teen self. I remember the phase when I wore cheetah print pants to school with a tan Indian vest that had tassels. My Mamaw had gotten it for me for my birthday and I loved it. I’m sure many of my peers that I was nuts but I didn’t care. The cute boy I was crushing on told me “cool pants” that was the only thing I remembered.
I remember when I wore two strands of my hair in my face for the better part of a year, along with my brother’s baggy t-shirts and flannel shirts. It drove my mother batty. She told me later on when I I became an adult that she fought the urge constantly to pull my hair back out of my face but she didn’t. She let me go through that phase and prayed that I quickly passed by it. Because of her ability to hold her tongue while I figured out my own style, I became a woman who dresses only for herself and never has cared what other people think. I have three main reasons I allow my children to dress themselves and pick out their own clothes.
The first one is because I do not want to put out their creative fire.
I believe it is the creative people who really pave a way for themselves. They are the ones who make waves, create new brands, discover new technology. The creatives are not afraid to color outside of the box. I consider myself pretty creative. However, I know B is 1,000x more creative than I have ever been or hope to be. She is constantly making something. The other day while I was trying to clean the house, she dug out puff balls, flubber and a paint brush. She made me a “cleaner” with those materials. I may have been slightly irritated that she decided to make something while I was cleaning, but she enthusiastically declared “the thought just came to her, she HAD to make it, and she promised she would clean up after herself.” Which she did. I want to cultivate that creativity. I want it to burn until B has discovered every creative bone in her body. She may want to do something in life with the creativity God has given her one day. If I make her conform to a certain style she may lose that fire. She may start believing her creative sense is not worth exploring, that it is different, or wrong. I will not allow that to happen to my children.
The second reason is because I do not want society to tell my children who they are.
We have enough young people and children that have fallen for the lies of society. They believe they have to be a certain way or a certain person, go with the flow of society or you’re weird, wrong, or different. I do not want my children to fit into society. This was one reason we chose to homeschool, along with many other reasons. I do not want anyone telling my children that they have to be a certain way. Especially if those people telling my children this are still trying to figure out who they are and are pressed to conform themselves I do not want them to be carbon copies of whoever this society is trying to make young people into. They were created uniquely by God and they should stay their unique and different selves.
The third reason is because children need room to grow into who they are meant to be.
I could tell my children what to wear or how to dress. If I did though then they would just be a mini copy of myself. One of me is enough! One of you is enough too. Our children need to be able to express themselves and one way they do that is through the way they dress. This is how they discover what they like, what they don’t like, and what feels comfortable to them. Letting them dicover this safely in the home while they are young is so important.
I am a strong believer that some things are just not worth trying to control as a parent. The little things, like what they wear or how they want to do their hair, ask yourself, is it worth it? Are you putting to much effort into fighting your child with their style choices? Maybe you could be using that energy on something more important. You should be using that energy on something more important.
The next time you see a little child in the store and they look like they dressed themselves, don’t give side-eye. Instead complement that child on being brave enough to be their own self in a world of carbon copies.
Until next time xoxo,