If you saw my kids on any given day, maybe tearing across the park or accompanying me to Walmart, you’d probably say in your head, “how could that mother let her children dress like that?”
And I’d get it. High leather boots with yellow shorts and a yellow shirt in September. Loud cat-lady leggings with a zebra print top and sequins slip-on shoes. Gym shorts paired with a plaid button-up. Audacious. Sometimes I look at their choices, shake my head and wonder, why? If you saw my little rat pack wearing stripes with polka dots, every blue article of clothing they own all at once, and dancing macaroons on a shirt that’s seen a lot of wear, you’d shake your head too.
But letting them pick out their own clothes was a choice I made long ago…there’s no going back now.
Why on Earth would I allow this? Surely, any decent mother would do the public’s eyesight a favor and march them right back to their rooms for a wardrobe change. Maybe I should. But here are a few reasons I don’t.
It Encourages Independence
After all, isn’t that what we want—our kids to become independent? Many parents have a hard time letting their kids choose their clothing because it’s hard to loosen the reigns. Plus, they’ll probably pick things that we never would; those character tees that grandma sends for their birthdays, clashing patterns and prints, outfits they’d never allow adults to wear in a boardroom.
But giving your kids the go-ahead on choosing what they wear honors the fact that they have an opinion. They have lots of them actually, and expressing their personality through their clothing is a good way to encourage individuality. It says, I love who you are and the ideas you come up with.
Even my two-year-old comes to me occasionally with clothes he’d like to wear. Last week, it was his big brother’s Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt that looked more like a night gown on him. But he insisted and I acquiesced. When Zac came home from work, he took one look at the boy and said, “You let him go out like that?”
Well yep, yep I did.
It Nourishes Creativity
“Fashion is art and you are the canvas.”
This Velvet Paper quote describes exactly how I feel about fashion. As adults, we choose clothing that speaks to us, that reflects who we are, and that makes us feel good. Why shouldn’t kids do the same?
Choosing their clothing is one of a child’s first attempts at creativity. It allows them to develop their own tastes, their own style, and to be unique. I’m often surprised at how good the outfits my girls pull together can be. At ages 7 and 4, they are learning about matching colors and playing around with layering in very hipsterish ways. It puts a smile on my face to see my oldest heading to school in a cardigan, scarf, and earmuffs that she picked out herself. I see the little pep in her step and the confidence in her eyes as she gets out of the car and skips to her classroom.
How in the world could I take that from her by telling her that it’s still 75 degrees outside?
You Gotta Choose Your Battles
Aside from the first two noble reasons why I let my kids choose their own clothes, perhaps the biggest reason is that fighting those wardrobe battles just isn’t worth it.
If you’ve got kids with strong personalities or strong opinions, you know the warfare that can ensue when you try to get them to wear something you choose. It is bloody. There is screaming, pounding and rolling around on the floor, and what I like to call the rigor mortis effect where the body stiffens up to the point that no decent pair of jeans or polo shirt will ever go on it.
And thus you see girls in tutus and princess costumes at the grocery store and boys in pajama bottoms and Spider Man gloves at Target. Sometimes, it’s just not worth the fight.
I’m the Sacagawea to Their Lewis & Clark
Although I continue to let my kids pick out their own clothes, I can still be their guide. Like a wise Sacagawea to some very adamant Lewises and Clarks, I can guide them to safer fashion waters.
“Honey, I think maybe those are too many stripes you’re wearing today.”
“Hey buddy, I really like the color green, but maybe a green shirt, green shorts, green socks, and green Crocs are a little bit too much. How would you feel about wearing your favorite jeans instead?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…kids come to us exactly how they are. They have big personalities with cute quirks and cool ideas. Picking out their own clothes is just a small way to express those things.
So, if you see me in public and the kids look like the Village People, understand that I’m trying to nurture independent, creative little humans—or that the battle was brutal and they came out on top. You can always shield your eyes—I know firsthand how the glare from all that sequins can make you see stars.
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