Since day one with my eldest boy, I’ve cared about appearance. If he spit up on his onesie, it didn’t matter if there was nobody else home – I’d change his clothes. I didn’t spend a fortune on outfits or anything, but I always wanted him to look cute. Fortunately he’d wear whatever I bought for him and enjoyed being stylish. He rocked newsboy caps and coordinating Chuck Taylors. He had style and I loved showing him off.
Then my second son came and it was more of the same. Precious coordinating outfits down to the matching underwear and socks. Such a cutie-pie and a personality to match. I loved getting compliments on my boys, especially when they wore matching outfits. Weren’t they adorable?!
I also have a stepdaughter. Up until about 2 years ago, I chose her outfits for her, buying the cutest things with coordinating accessories. Each morning without fail I’d do up her hair in elaborate styles with braids and bows. I loved seeing her dolled up and hearing the compliments on how pretty she looked.
Enter my baby daughter. She’s currently 19 months old and I’ve been so fortunate to receive a plethora of cuter-then-cute hand-me-downs. She loves to dress up too. After I’ve gotten her dressed in the morning and fixed her hair up into a bow, she checks herself out in the mirror and squeals with delight! She never pulls her bows out, not since she was a tiny baby. Naturally I absolutely adore dressing her up in sweet outfits and hearing all the buzz from passersby about how adorable she is.
Letting Them Pick
Okay, so my eldest is now almost 14. My stepdaughter is 13. And my middle son is about to turn 6. Of course, though I’m still in charge of purchasing their clothes I’m beyond the point of being able to pick and choose their daily outfits (maybe Christmas outfits, being the exception!) These three big kids choose what they’re going to wear. And that’s both a good and bad thing. And I had the HARDEST time letting it go.
I started getting push back from my eldest, wanting to wear only basketball shorts and everything in black. He’s since added in more color to his wardrobe, but it’s still all pretty much basketball clothes. And the shirt that he wore on his kindergarten t-ball team? He only stopped wearing it last year – people, he was 12!! He has finally passed it down to his little brother (despite that it has older brother’s name silk screened on the back)..
Stepdaughter started asking if she could choose her own outfits and I obliged. At first it was cringe-worthy, the patterns and styles that came out of the bedroom in the morning. I sent her back to her room a lot to swap out either the top or the pants, because I just couldn’t let her walk out of the house wearing an orange striped shirt with red jeans, could I? I still did up her hair for a while though, until she took that over too, not wanting braids or bows any longer. Hair is usually pulled back sloppily into a regular ponytail.
Second son is probably the most eclectic of all. He’s incredibly creative and at 4, started resisting to the outfits I’d chosen. He now regularly walks out for the day wearing sweatpants, a tank top and knee socks pulled over the hem of the pants.
The Day I Gave Up Caring
I was going through a drawer filled with pictures at my mom’s house. The kids and I were giggling over the old photos, in particular the ones with the 1980s version of mommy. I was rockin’ copious amounts of blue eye shadow behind my enormous pink glasses. Permed hair with wild bangs that I never could get ratted up quite right. And the outfits. What’s funny is I know that I dressed even more wildly, there is just no photographic evidence. My wise mother didn’t capture those over-the-top moments when I was wearing four ponytails, layered socks and two skirts (yes, I remember layering a short skirt over a long one!) I certainly did dress funky, even though my excuse is that it was the 80s. Each outfit was my own personal style.
And then it hit me – I was stifling my kids from having their own personal style.
In not letting my kids wear what was their personal style, I was really putting a damper on letting them grow and develop into the unique person that God wants them to be.
I’d asked my mom about those wild outfits years ago, cringing at a particular photo of me with both blue eye shadow AND blue mascara. She told me that she’d always admired my fashion gusto as a child. She wanted to foster my creativity. And that if I wanted to wear three ponytails on my head or a half dozen hair clips, she’d let me. She said her only suggestion was that I not mix plaids, even if my kindergarten reasoning was that they had the same colors.
Letting Them Grow By Letting It Go
And so I stopped making suggestions on what my kids should or shouldn’t wear. I started turning a blind eye (literally) to what I was seeing them wear at the breakfast table. I changed my commentary to say things like, “That’s a cute top on you” or “What a colorful outfit today!” The self-confidence is rising.
If I don’t want my kids to wear a particular item anymore, I unceremoniously remove it from their closet and put it in the donation bin. If it’s not in the closet, they can’t wear it anymore.
People aren’t complimenting my eldest three on their clothes anymore. People just don’t say anything about their appearance. Nobody really cares that the oldest boy is wearing basketball shorts again. Or that stepdaughter has her hair in a sloppy ponytail. Or that little son is wearing neon green socks with orange sandals. I no longer think that it reflects poorly on me if my kids aren’t dressed to the nines.
But what I do hear goes deeper than that. I’m hearing how well behaved they are. How generous and how kind. What good friends they are. That’s what’s really important, right? Not that they’re wearing something mismatched.
You may see me out and about with the kids, or maybe you see a photo of them online. One of the kids is wearing a clip-on tie with their t-shirt, one is wearing a Christmas themed shirt in July and the other has spiked his hair with too much gel. Just smile and nod. And know that I’m dying inside to correct them. But that I’m choosing to let them grow by letting it go.