My 5 year-old daughter has been known to wear some outrageous outfits. She has always been resistant to wearing what we chose for her, or taking our input about clothing at all. We have spent many a days asking her to reconsider wardrobe choices, and trying to teach her that she need not place every hair accessory she owns on her head at the same time. A general “less is more” stylist approach I used to take. She is fondly remembered at our local grocery store for wearing snow boots and a scarf in July -- for a week straight. She often pairs multi colors and patterns that make your eyes twitch, and her general “uniqueness” of her self-styled hairdos can’t go unmentioned. After countless negotiations, embarrassing moments and argument with my husband about what we would and wouldn’t allow her to wear in public, our daughter at age 3 ½ finally looked at us and said, “Just let me be me.”
Point taken and lesson learned
I remember immediately thinking that she was right. She was wise beyond her years -- and a great example of how we learn from our children. As I pondered why it bothered me that she didn’t match and sometimes looked down right comical -- it wasn’t about her at all. It was all about me -- and how I felt it reflected on me as a mother. Somehow I used to think that if people saw her outrageous outfits that they would view me as not “in control” of my kids and that I let them do whatever they please. This is not the type of mother I wanted to be at all. I didn’t want to control my children, and I certainly didn’t want to strip their creativity and individuality. I wanted to encourage my kids to make their own choices, to think outside the box and to embrace differences in others. I was embarrassed to admit that my apprehension about letting her dress the way she wanted was out of fear of what other people thought. This was completely out of character for me -- and not something I wanted to model for my children.
On my third date with my husband I remember discussing the type of parents we would be if we ever had children. We laughed as we playfully tossed around scenarios: What if they wanted blue hair? How about if they wanted to be a multi-tattooed rock star, or wear underwear on their head? We agreed that this was all OK by us -- that we wanted to be the type of parents who celebrated our children for who they were and to teach them to own their uniqueness. I knew from this day on that he was a keeper. Reflecting on our parenting thus far, we were consistent with our parenting intention on every other level, but this one. I had to not only let this wardrobe thing go, but embrace it as a wonderful part of my daughter owning herself.
After owning this realization, I had a discussion with a close friend of mine who also has a daughter who (clearing my throat) has her own sense of style. I always admired my friend’s attitude about her daughter’s choice of clothes, so I asked for her thoughts on the subject. She shared a story with me…She too, liked to dress herself with creative flare as a child. She has fond memories of putting a lot of thought and effort into what she considered to be a beautiful outfit. She would walk down the stairs to where her father would smile, and tell her she looked beautiful. She thinks back now, and has comic relief at what she wore to school, church and parties, but one of her fondness memories is her father’s confidence in her ability to chose. To my 40 year-old friend, this is one of her greatest self esteem builders to date. Lesson learned…I had some changin’ to do!
I haven’t said a word about her attire in more then two years. I was certain that upon starting kindergarten, peer pressure would influence her wardrobe choices. My theory was debunked -- and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Earlier this week I witnessed a few girls slightly older than my daughter giving her a hard time about her choice of shoes. They circled her asking repeatedly, “Why would you wear slippers to school?” When the interrogation didn’t stop, and she looked like she was going to cry, I encouraged her by saying, “This is what you choose to wear because you liked them, and thought they were comfortable. YOU DO YOU -- and rock those shoes today!” And she did! She rocked them that day and the next, and the day after that. She didn’t stop wearing them due to a little teasing. When I asked her about the incident, she only said, “I don’t care. I like being different. I am unique.” I told her she was my hero!
Three Pink cheers to our creative and confident kids… and for the parents who are teaching them to own it!