This morning when we left the house my 6-year-old daughter looked like she was heading to a costume party. She wore faded, denim shorts, mismatched knee-high socks, a stained t-shirt, and a headband with animal ears. She accessorized the eclectic ensemble with way too many bracelets and a chunky beaded necklace. The combination of colors, patterns, and fabrics was dizzying, but she posed proudly in front of the mirror for a full 5 minutes, clearly in-love with her look.
I was brushing my teeth when she turned to me and asked, “Mommy, do you like my outfit?”
She looked like a hot-mess, but I wasn’t about to tell her that, because everything that should be covered was. “I love it, honey! You look so cute!” I responded.
Her smile grew, showing the empty space where her front teeth used to be, and she blushed. “Thank you, Mommy!” She said as she turned and skipped away confidently.
Between you, me, and the internet, I would have never picked that outfit for her. I would have chosen something totally different, something that matched with less accessorizing. But, my selection wouldn’t have given her the autonomy or confidence she gained from dressing herself in the clothes she liked.
I know many moms who love to dress their kids. They carefully select each outfit, buy special shirts for holidays, and pick coordinating costumes for Halloween. But I’m not that mom. Even when it comes to family pictures, I let my kids have a say in what they put on their bodies. I encourage my son to dress himself, too, but I feel even more strongly about my daughter being allowed to wear what she wants.
Our clothing, and our style, is an extension of who we are, and how we express ourselves. As a woman, I know what lies ahead for my daughter. She will be met with expectations about everything from her body type to her career choice. She will likely be critiqued and criticized about any number of her life choices, and if she’s anything like the rest of us, at some point she will question herself based upon these societal expectations. Even the most resilient woman is given pause when slapped with an unsolicited opinion or criticism.
I have many goals as a mother, but one of them is to raise my babies to be confident in who they are and how they choose to express themselves, especially my daughter. I don’t want them to conform to make others happy, and for me, giving them the freedom to express themselves through their wardrobe now is a step toward reaching that goal.
My daughter’s style is part of who she is, and I would never suggest she should be anything other than herself. Asking her to change implies that her clothing choice is wrong. It’s only clothing, so how could it be wrong? Because it doesn’t match? Because it goes against the norm? Meh. Do you, baby girl.
Her choices may not be my choices, and I may not always like what she chooses, but that’s OK. So, don’t be surprised if you see me in Target with a kid who’s wearing swim goggles in December, or Christmas pants in July, because that’s pretty much how we roll.
No matter what they wear, my kids will always know I support who they are and however they choose to express themselves.