Who’s dressing the children?

Anna B. (in her own label) looking fierce in San Diego.

If Anna had her way, she’d look like this every time she left the house. And she often does, for beyond “as long as it fits and covers her bits,” I have few guidelines for how she dresses on casual outings. Unless water will be involved I require real shoes (convenient that young feet slip and slide in flip flops; to me those pseudo-shoes look awful, as if one’s Adult doesn’t give a hoot about protecting one’s feet).  Beyond weather and activity considerations, the rest of her clothes have no impact on her actual physical wellbeing, so far as I know. Feel free to correct me.

I am beginning to second-guess myself, however. She’s approaching the age at which she’ll care. I sense an approaching gulf between her wishes as she is getting dressed and her satisfaction when she arrives at her destination and views her concoction in situ.

It’s a tremendous failing of the human brain that, in tender years of age, it is primed to argue, while safe at home, with all rational suggestions presented by Adults (clothing, water bottle, go-to-the-bathroom) and then, once out in the world, vociferously blame said Adults for any and all irrational decisions that prevailed just moments before.

I am also learning that all of my parenting decisions have a selfish component, a subtext I must a) identify, b) distinguish from other motivations and c) figure out what the hell to do with.

In short, say, we get to dance class and every other girl’s hair is swept smoothly into a braided ‘do adorned with ribbons that are neither fraying nor streaked with fingerpaint and Anna’s hair is a rats’ nest with nary a decoration, I am dismayed. I am given in such moments to stage whisper, presumably to the empty air around me (but you and I know better): “Oh, why did I spend an hour this morning brushing this hair? What’s a mother to do?”

Don’t judge.

Yes, I spend forever on her hair in the mornings, but most of that time is spent chasing her around the house and coaxing her out from under the bed.

Of course I’ve read research (and, yes, there is research on this). I’ll summarize: weather-appropriate, developing self-expression, comfort. Were I searching for a thesis topic, which I am not, I might consider trying to tease apart various influences —  TV commercials, number of trips to Target in a week, mother’s level of education, whatever — on preschoolers’ personal preferences. (I’m sure someone already has.)

We’re on our way to Florida tomorrow, and like all good Southern mothers mine claims authority over all clothing leaving her house — we can wear curlers and housecoats all day long but I pity the fool who runs out to the drugstore without proper undergarments. Her kids are in their forties and she still sends us off with “Take a sweater.”

So I have a few weeks to figure this out before I am once again in charge of my daughter’s sartorial decisions. At least nominally.

What would you do?

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Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 8:37 AM  Leave a Comment  

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