Really, weíre not sending this message to our girls in any kind of adequate way. By the time my daughter was two she was getting herself dressed and had a very set idea of what she wanted to look like. She wanted to wear her sparkly Wizard of Oz shoes every single day. She was dedicated to never matching. Iím all for independence, so I let her wear whatever she wants as long as itís modest.
By modest, I mean she is not allowed to leave the house looking like a Bratz Doll. No belly shirts and no bum cheeks hanging out of her shorts or skirt. She must wear shorts under her dresses because itís no fun to ďsit like a lady.Ē No bikinis either. Oh, how I wanted to be allowed to wear a bikini and always swore I would never make my daughter wear a one-piece swim suit. The first time we got one handed down I thought, are there any circumstances where I want my daughter wearing a bikini? The answer in my head was a resounding NO and I promptly threw the swim suit away without her knowledge.
By the time she was three she would absolutely freak out if we suggested she wear something she didnít like. It got to such an extreme fight about what she was going to wear on any given day that I took away every single item of clothing she owned for an entire week. Well, except for the ďI hate that shirt, I look like a boyĒ outfit that I just kept washing and making her put back on. Itís actually parenting advice I got from a Madonna interview.
You are not going to behave this way about clothes. You are NOT your clothes. Do you think I love every item of clothing I wear? No, I do not! I wear clothes I hate, because thatís what I have, thatís what people hand down to me and thatís what we can afford to buy! And you ARE going to learn to be grateful for every stitch of clothes you have the privilege of owning, I told her as I packed her entire wardrobe in a black garbage bag and shoved it in my closet.
All week long she went around telling everyone we spoke to, Iím wearing this because Iím being punished. My mom took away all my clothes.
But, I could tell by her tone that she was not complaining as much as she was bragging. It was as if she were very excited to be punished (paid attention to) in such a big way.
September is coming and school is going to start and everyone is going to be bombarded by commercials and sales and tax-free weekends with the big push to buy school clothes. Already last year, in pre-school, my daughter was complaining that her clothes werenít as cute as some of the other girls’, who came to school looking like a fashion show.
My clothes arenít as cute as Caitlin and Abbyís, she would complain.
Thatís not true. Grandma has bought you a lot of very cute matching outfits and those girls wear what their motherís tell them to wear every morning. They match. You have the clothes, but you choose to dress yourself and you never decide to wear the matching outfits together. You could look just like them if you wanted to. Youíre choosing not to. Thatís okay too. You have your own style, I told her. She went to school mismatched again, so apparently it wasnít that important to blend in.
Iím not okay with spending hundreds of dollars on ďschool clothes.Ē Frankly, we have more important needs in our family. I picked up a bunch of new-enough outfits at garage sales and a couple of dresses and three pairs of shoes at garage sales this weekend. I hid them and will pull them out when she starts to see all the advertising telling her sheís not good enough if she doesnít get new clothes.
I spent $12. Iíll probably pick up a few more things at garage sales and the Grandmas might make a few contributions. If I happen to have money burning a hole in my pocket I may take her to Old Navy and allow her to pick one new school outfit with a budget of $20. Just so she wonít feel completely left out of the American Tradition of School Clothes Shopping.
I guess I just donít understand why a whole new wardrobe is an American tradition. Itís not like in my grandmotherís day when she would save her money all year to be able to afford to buy her kids one new pair of shoes for school. Kids get clothes all year long now, donít they? Mine certainly get them for birthdays, Christmas and whenever I happen upon them or when wonderful people hand them down.
Itís June, now is the time to decide how much youíre willing to spend on school clothes. Now is the time to give daughters the message,
You are not your clothes. You are good enough no matter what you wear. We are not going into debt so you can win a popularity contest at school. People will like you because you’re a great person, not because of what you wear.