I despised my clothes when I was a child. While all the other kids in my class wore cool ripped jeans, neon stripes, Jams, and parachute pants, I was forced to wear pretty corduroy jumpers, plaid kilts, and monogrammed sweaters. I was a target: the dorky kid with the weird clothes. But, did I complain to my Mom about her purchasing choices? Nope! I just thought it was my lot in life. I wore what she gave me, never sharing my misery.
I can’t fault my mom. She didn’t know. As a substitute teacher at my schools, she fraternized with all my teachers, only hearing how adorable I looked in my Animal Cracker tailored outfits with matching ribbons in my hair. In high school I finally mustered the courage to tell her the truth, and she was mortified to hear about my experiences and bewildered that I never confessed my feelings.
Thirty plus years later, I am now the mom buying clothes for my little girl. But, unlike me, my daughter has no problem telling me exactly what she thinks about my purchasing choices for her. Here's a great example from this week.
“Today is picture day at school, Madeleine Stone. I laid out your new dress on your bed.” A few minutes later, she walked into my bathroom wearing the dress along with the most despicable face. Her lips were puckered together, as if she had just sucked on a lemon. The scowl spread across her eyes was augmented by her tightly crossed arms in front of her body and the guttural “uhhhh!” of disgust she uttered from her vocal chords.
“I don’t like it!” she said.
“Oh, you look adorable,” I responded. “Just wait until you see it with the matching beret.”
“No!” she said stomping her foot and shaking her head in disgust.
Okay, I thought. Remember how you felt wearing something you hated to school? Don’t do this to your daughter. ..But, she’s out of her mind…This dress oozes with style. …not to mention I paid an arm and a leg for it.
As complacent of a child as I was, my daughter is equally obstinate. When she doesn’t like something, you know it, it’s almost impossible to change her mind. I’ll talk her into it, I thought, she’s only four. And that’s when I started selling my pitch!
“When I showed it to you the other day, Squirt, you said you loved it.”
“Not anymore. It’s got black in it, and I don’t’ like black.”
“But look at this adorable beret”
“I want to wear a barrette, not a beret”
“Barrette, beret; they’re almost the same. “
“No, they’re not.”
I ran to her room to get her globe. “Look here, Squirt.” Pointing to Europe, “This beret came all the way from France. It traveled across the Atlantic Ocean just so you could wear it.” Putting my right index finger on France and my left index finger on Texas, “It traveled so far. How cool is that…to get to wear something from so far away?”
Just a little white lie, I thought. She was starting to cave, I could see the curiosity building up in her eyes.
Dang, I thought, I almost had her.
It was time to bring out the big guns. “Madeleine Stone, you told me that you liked it, and that’s why I pulled the tags off. This dress and beret were not cheap. And if you’re not going to wear it, then you owe me some money.”
“It will cost you your allowance for an entire year.” (She gets $1 a week for spending.)
Snap, I got her!
“Fine. I’ll wear it, but only once.”
“Three times,” I bartered.
“Two times,” she countered.
“Two times plus when you go and see Santa.” Tricky tricky.
“I’m not wearing this for Santa Clause. He’d hate it too.”
“Okay, then three times, but you don’t have to wear it when you see Santa.”
“Alright, then! Now, go get in the car.”
But she wasn’t happy about it. Wearing her Probably-Not-From-France beret and dress, she mumbled and grumbled all the way to school.
“What did you say, Squirt?” I asked, eyeing her in my rear view mirror.
“I said I’m going to sit on the toilet all day so nobody sees me.”
“Well, then you’ll get hemorrhoids.” Did I really just say that to my four-year old?“Whatsa Hemoroy?”
“Something you don’t want.”
“Why not?”“Cuz they hurt.”
Oh, boy. Time to change the subject.
“Will you please smile for your pictures, today?”“I’ll try, but it’ll be hard wearing this dress.”
“That’s all I ask, Squirt, just try.”
We bantered on and on all the way to school. Luckily, she was so hyper-focused on the outfit that she forgot all about the hemorrhoids. I pulled into the school’s driveway, but she refused to get out of the car. Oh, what have I done?Her teacher walked up to my car, opened the door, and exclaimed, “Well, don’t you look beautiful in your new dress, Madeleine Stone.” Madeleine Stone scrunched up her face in disagreement, but took her teacher’s hand and exited the vehicle.
“Love ya, Squirt” I hollered from my lowered passenger window, but she kept walking. My heart ached. All this over a stupid dress.
Before closing the classroom door behind her, Madeleine Stone’s teacher turned around to say, “Great outfit, Amanda, I love it!” Of course you do, so did my teachers. …Oh, my poor baby—never again!
[Fast forward to the end of the day]
“Okay, Squirt, you can take off that dress now,” I informed Madeleine Stone as we walked into the house.
“I don’t want to!”
“What? Why not?”
“Cuz I like it.”
“Since now. It looks like a bee costume. Can I wear it for Halloween?” With that she buzzed around the room, happy as a bumble bee in a flower patch.
Are you kidding me?
So, there it is: a tale of two daughters. One daughter, quietly tenacious, while the other boisterously fickle. I wasted precious hours worrying about the emotional trauma I had inflicted on my daughter, projecting my past onto her, when, all the while, she was buzzing around like a busy bee wearing her new favorite dress.