I have a few hundred goals as a parent, but one of my top ones is to ensure my kids grow up confident in themselves. I want them to understand who they are and love that person.
It’s a long road ahead — one that I know will have to endure many phases of conformity and self-doubt.
Just the other day, the temperature was about 34 degrees when we walked to the bus stop. We usually have to wait about five minutes or so once we get there, so I recommended we dig out our winter coats and hats and gloves. The girls couldn’t believe it would be that cold, so I had them step outside. They both visibly shivered and agreed it was winter coat weather. After we bundled up, Grace started to worry. “But what if no one else is wearing winter coats? What if they laugh at us?”
Enter self-doubt. We talked round and round about how it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. “Is it cold?” “Yes.” “Do you want to be warm?” “Yes.” “Then it doesn’t matter what anyone else is wearing.” But that didn’t stop her from walking behind me the whole way there.
I know this lesson will take many years — maybe decades — to be fully understood. Which is why in addition to discussing the topic, I try very hard not to add my judgment to the mix.
So, I let the girls choose what they wear each day (with some boundaries because they really don’t understand how cold or warm 43 degrees is). I don’t say “Wouldn’t you rather wear this shirt?” or “Those colors don’t work together.” As long as it’s safe for the weather, they get free reign.
There are times that I cringe on the inside. Once, Claire chose a navy and white striped shirt to go with black and white striped pants. The colors are so close that from a distance, you’d never know they weren’t the same color. But my OCD could see they were slightly off and it drove me nuts. It’s actually still driving me nuts just thinking about. In fact, let’s stop talking about it.
But my lips were zipped.
Once, Grace paired a dress and a skirt together and on the inside I was yelling, “But now you are wearing two skirts!!”
But again, my lips were zipped.
Most of the time, though, I smile at the wacky things they choose to wear. And I really smile when they show that confidence in themselves. One day, Grace was looking for a pair of pants. I couldn’t find them so I offered another pair: “These would match that shirt.” She spent the next few minutes scolding me: “Mom, you know we don’t have to match our clothes. We can choose what we like. Just because you think it matches doesn’t mean we like it.”
So, next time you see my kids and think to yourselves, “She clearly doesn’t care.” Just know that their mismatched, multi-layered fashion statements actually show that I do.