I look back at pictures of myself as a child—you know, the ones where I’m decked out in a beautifully smocked dress, sitting angelically beside my perfectly coordinated brother—and then I look at my kids and wonder where I went wrong.
Since about the age of two, both of my boys have been extremely opinionated about what they wear. And, let’s just say, mainstream isn’t their thing. Sure, I’m the one who buys the clothes (ok, Lenny is, but I usually chime in), but I try to give them the freedom to decide what they wear each day. (Hmm…maybe this is where I went wrong.)
Through the years, we’ve gone through many phases in our house.
First Big decided that mismatched shoes were his thing. For an entire spring/summer he wore one bright blue and one navy blue Crock (which were often accessorized with a train conductor’s hat—worn backwards). As the weather changed, he moved to one plaid and one solid slip on. Everywhere we went people would ask if I realized he was wearing one wrong shoe. Everywhere we went, I was well aware. But honestly, I thought it was pretty funny and a battle worth letting him win. After all, self-expression was something I wanted to embrace early on.
Soon after Little was born, the matching madness began. The clothes didn’t need to be exactly the same, but if Little’s onesie had an animal on it, Big wanted a shirt with an animal on it. If Little was wearing cargo pants, Big wanted them too. Eventually we started buying some matching clothes to simplify the whole exhausting process. (I humbly acknowledge that this phase was more about control than self-expression—ok maybe they all are—but I was sleep deprived, and again it was a battle I was willing to let him win.)
The day Little discovered that he had an opinion about clothing, the matching phase came to a halt. Now Big will only wear athletic pants (my fancy way of saying sweats) and Little refuses to wear them. He’s become partial to brown pants. (He’ll tolerate khakis as a fallback if all the browns are dirty. You may ask why he has three pairs of brown pants and all I can say is I wonder too…)
Before Christmas, Little became so opinionated about what shirt he wanted to wear, he was paralyzed in the morning making a decision. Sure, we tried the whole, “Here are your options, which one do you want?” We failed. But on Christmas Eve, he solved his own problem. If he couldn’t decide which one to wear, he’d wear them all. That day he wore eleven shirts. Not only was it hilarious, I got to thinking he might have a future as a Gap model since those poor little things are done up in so many layers they couldn’t run away from the photographer if they tried. (So far, nobody’s stopped me on the street with a modeling contract, but that’s only because now I only let him wear three—ok, four—shirts on any given day.)
I can’t help but look at our Christmas Eve pictures—with Little looking like a 3-foot-tall linebacker and Big wearing his shirt backwards for some bizarre reason—and have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love that my boys feel confident in embracing their own style, in being different. (I also appreciate the comedic value they added to the day in their crazy get-ups.) But part of me longs for the beautiful family shot (heck, any family shot) in front of the tree in our Christmas bests—which, in my fantasy, don’t include drawstrings or jerseys.
When I feel that way, I find comfort in knowing that while we may not have captured a frame-worthy picture, we’ll always look back on this season—and what’s likely to be a short-lived phase—with laughter and fond memories.
Do you let your kids pick out their own clothes? Are there things your kids love/hate to wear? Are you one of those families that captures the perfect shot in subtle, but stunningly coordinated outfits (and what’s your secret)? Do you look at kids like mine in the grocery store and consider pulling the mom aside for an intervention? (Go ahead, be honest.)
Thanks for bringing back an amazing flood of memories! At 18 & 15, I now have absolutely no say in what they wear – with one exception. The rule in our house has always been the kids could wear whatever they wanted all the time EXCEPT for special occassions which were announced days or weeks in advance and repeated frequently. This way they knew I meant business, didn’t argue. They were happy and still are to make me smile every once in a while.
My big went through a couple of phases. The first was when he was learning his colors. Everything he wore had to be the same color: shirt, shorts and socks. Shoes were ok at any color because they usually didn’t stay on long so everyone could see the matching socks. Then there was the cape, red rain boots and fireman’s helmut. And the final phase sadly ended in 9th grade. He never went without a baseball cap. Leave it to high school to not allow him to wear one of his 50+ hats from all over the world.
Consider yourself lucky that your kids waited until 2 to voice their opinions regarding shoes. My little put “no” to a very appropriate use. My mistake but from day one I would hold her in front of the closet and say out loud, “what should we wear today?” Imagine my surprise the day she said, “no” and pointed to what she wanted to wear. That “phase” is still with us – I just no longer ask! Then there was the Imelda Marcos phase where she had more shoes than days of the week and some shoes absolutely could not be worn with certain outfits. And of course there was the phase where she wanted to wear big’s outgrown clothes because she adored him and they were already “comfy.”
So I think our kids all go through phases. I know I still do. I promise you will look back on these times and pictures with great fondness of “real” times and not just “picture perfect”.
This is great. I love hearing all your stories. It’s also good to be prepared that this will probably go on for a long time. I guess there will be a lot of laughs along the way!
Anne Colen says
I think it’s so cool to see their little personalities shine through with their clothing choices. It has gone in phases with my girls for sure – from Crock-wearing miss matched everything, to only skirts or dresses, to looking pretty normal/mainstream on most days. I let them wear pretty much whatever they want unless it’s a special occasion, or if they are bordering on the slutty (by accident I hope). They are starting to be more interested in how they look, spending a lot more time in front of the mirror, dancing around, trying to see what they look like from the backside, etc. And to touch on the kids in the grocery store who are obviously wearing what THEY want…I think…what good parents. They are giving their kids the room to express their current style and personalities. Good times!
I love hearing about your girls and it sounds like you’ve given them the freedom to get to a good place. Hopefully mine will get there someday. Thanks for the confidence boosting words, too!
Lyn Lomasi says
LOL I let them wear whatever their heart’s desire – even if I think it looks horrendous… 🙂
Sounds like we’re in the same boat. The funny part is, my kids think they look soooo good. They often announce that, in fact. I guess freedom of choice is a confidence booster. I’ll go with that.
Brooke Lorren says
LOL, how funny.
I don’t pick out my 8 year old’s clothes, although we do claim veto power. Today I took her shopping at Goodwill with $50 (you can buy a lot of clothes there for that amount), and I let her grab the things that she liked that fit her, except I vetoed clothes that were too short, had writing across the butt, or were otherwise unacceptable. When we leave the house (or if she plays outside) and she’s not wearing something appropriate, she has to change. She gets a lot more leeway in what she can wear to play outside than what she can wear to say… church.
I usually grab the clothes for my little guy (4), although sometimes he will put something on himself. His biggest problem is putting on clothes backwards. I’ll usually have him turn it around, even at home. A few times he’s left the house without underwear and I felt bad when I found out.
I guess my little boy just doesn’t care very much. I shopped for clothes for him today as well, and aside from picking out what color shirt he wanted, he was pretty much okay with anything that I bought. Most of the time he’s stuck with his cousin’s hand-me-downs… perhaps that has influenced his just being happy with whatever he gets.
Brooke, our kids have been lucky enough to be given lots of cousin and friend hand-me-downs, but I’m afraid that hasn’t made them any less opinionated. It sounds like you have a great perspective and approach. Great to hear from you!
I actually think they look funnier when Matt dresses them ;)!
whoops – I mean I think MY kids look funnier when MY Matt dresses them, versus when they dress themselves ;)!
So funny, Jodie. I thought you meant my Matt and I agreed!