I’ll admit there are times when I secretly wish I could put a sign on my kids that reads: “I Dressed Myself.” You know, just in case there is any confusion about who thought the knee socks with the fraying Wonder Woman costume was a good idea to wear to the gym. Or who picked the tall black boots with the flowered sundress, sparkly belt and panda bear hat for a trip to grocery store.
But I got over it.
In time, I learned to celebrate their individuality and embrace their creativity. It’s much more fun – not to mention funny – this way. Plus it’s a heck of a lot less stressful for all parties involved.
It took me awhile to get to this point, but in retrospect I’m not even sure why I cared. Was I really afraid people would see the sometimes odd or mismatched outfits and think that – gasp - I picked them out? That I have questionable taste? Or that it was somehow a reflection on me? But the bigger question is, why was I worried about a stranger’s judgement in the first place? Is that the message I wanted to send my kids? Instead of being true to yourself you conform to be accepted? Nah.
All three of my girls have strong opinions on what they wear. For awhile I could at least have fun picking out the baby’s clothes, but now even that is out the window. At two she’s already taking after her older sisters and will literally cry if she doesn’t get to pick herself. She also hates pajamas and insists on sleeping in an actual dress hanging in her closet. I even tried to hang up a nightgown to trick her once, but she wasn’t fooled and threw it back in the unused pajama drawer. I’m not sure if it’s OCD or just very opinionated. Or both. But the point is, I’m well past the stage of picking out my kids’ clothes. They all want to do it themselves.
Now don’t get me wrong — the girls often put together fabulous ensembles. They’re fun and funky and so random it works. One of their Pre-K teachers last year called it a “Bohemian/Punky Brewster” style. But their choices are all over the board, so just as often they look like they closed their eyes and put on the first thing they touched (including Christmas socks or Halloween tights — both of which made appearances last week). It’s just totally unpredictable and you never know what you’re going to get. It’s interesting, but the twins have distinctly different styles. One favors dresses and sparkly shoes, while the other is more practical and opts for comfort. One wears bright colors, the other gravitates more toward blacks and greys.
This picture gives an idea of their different styles. Molly chose a practical t-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes and those Christmas socks while Allie opted for a dress and wedge heels. Even those poses give you a glimpse into their different personalities.
A couple years ago Allie had a favorite dress she wore so many times we dubbed it her uniform. I’m pretty sure her preschool teacher thought it was the only dress we owned because she wore it almost every day. I’d wash it and she’d immediately snatch it from the laundry basket to put on, still warm from the dryer. I’d suggest other outfits, even bribes but she insisted on that faded purple Gap dress. It was like a security blanket. I soon gave up trying to reason with her and decided if that’s what made her comfortable and it was (at least relatively) clean, why not let her wear it four times a week? It made her happy and wasn’t hurting anyone. Eventually that stage passed and she fixated on something else, but she’ll still occasionally drag that dress out of the closet and slip it on. It fits more like a shirt these days, but I don’t have the heart to throw it out.
That’s All That Matters
A couple years ago I described another of Molly’s crazy outfits to my grandmother and she wisely replied, “Well, as long as she thinks she looks good that’s all that matters, right?”
That simple statement stuck with me and really made a difference in my approach. If they think they look good, who cares what anyone else thinks? Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to let the girls dress themselves as much as possible. I do have a couple rules – they have to be “weather appropriate” and they have to look somewhat presentable at church. The latter I suppose is out of respect – it doesn’t seem right to show up looking like a bad costume party to church. Then again I have to think God doesn’t care one bit. He might even get a chuckle. Because doesn’t he love all the little children, no matter what they’re wearing?
Lately I’m so used to my girls’ crazy outfits I hardly even notice. In fact, earlier today I texted a picture of Molly and Allie to Ryan (per their request – they wanted to show off their new sparkly earrings) and he replied back “nice socks with the sandals.” I laughed because I had totally forgotten she went to the dentist and walked the entire mall wearing pink flowered socks with her favorite worn-out wedges.
Another example: Yesterday was Molly and Allie’s 5th birthday, and one gift was a pair of obnoxious neon outfits I found on super clearance at Marshalls. Since the girls love to play dress up I thought they’d be great additions to the costume box (I pictured 80′s rockstars). I was thrilled that they loved them, but not quite as excited that they wanted to wear them all day for REAL clothes. But it was their birthday so what could I do? Off we went! And later as I watched them proudly strut around in their blinding colors I was grateful I didn’t force them to wear what I wanted them to wear on their special day. They loved it, and wearing those cheap outfits made their birthday that much more fun. It doesn’t happen often, but for once I made the right choice.
Today my girls are carefree and truly oblivious to what others think. They aren’t yet self-conscious and will walk out of the house in pretty much anything – so long as they chose it. But sadly, I fear they’ll only have this childlike confidence for a little while longer. Somewhere along the way they’ll become more aware of what other people think. I desperately want my girls think for themselves and develop their own unique styles and personalities. I hope as they grow they don’t get so caught up in impressing others they’ll want to dress like the “cool kids” at school. Middle school is tough. High school can be brutal. So for now I’m going to embrace their individuality for as long as I can. Let them look like little Punky Brewsters or 80′s rockers or superheroes or fairy princesses or whatever they want. Because they think they look fabulous, and like Granny said, that’s really all that matters.