I get complimented on how smart, well-behaved, mature, and basically cool my daughter is. And I always so “yeah, I wish I knew what I did right so I could write a book about it and make a million bucks.” I’m not sure where I went right though, and perhaps I may be being premature since my kid is only 11. She might hit 13 and turn into a raving lunatic like I’m sure I was at 13. But I’m going to try and hit at least one point here that was very important to me since I became a mother.
My daughter, since the day she was born, was her own individual person. That’s the way I saw it. For a bit there I could of course dress her how I wanted and feed her what I wanted, but this is all a temporary arrangement. Soon she was going to find the things she preferred. Already as a baby she had toys she preferred and places she preferred and if she wasn’t getting those she’d cry. I look at and still see motherhood as me taking care of and supporting this new individual in the world so she can stand on her own when she reaches adulthood. She is her own person and I don’t want to inflict my preferences on her or make her feel that my way is the only right way.
This is Madonna. It’s hard for me to imagine Madonna as anything other than full of personality. I know at one point she was just a newborn baby. But there had to be a point early on when she was just a force on her own.
This is very tricky when it comes to my beliefs in religion, politics, and society. I’ve expressed previously how conflicted I’ve felt talking to her about these things because I have a set point of view and I know that my point of view is going to influence her. To make myself feel better I just remind myself that most of what I believe is about teaching good things like love and understanding as opposed to hatred, but I digress.
Let’s look at something simpler: fashion 🙂
One year during Halloween I asked someone I knew what their 2yr old son was going to dress up as. She said they had bought them a Thomas the Train costume because kids that young can’t really pick. Now, there’s no way to not sound like I’m being a snob, but… yes they can. And I don’t mean letting a kid eat candy for dinner because that is what they would choose. I am talking about providing children an opportunity to choose by giving them choices.
So this is what I did. Two years old is actually the year I let her start picking out her own costume. I tore out a page from the Party City catalog of costumes that would fit her age group (for boys and girls and how I loathe those distinctions) and let her point to the one she wanted. She picked a witch. A very simple black with gold belt buckle and hat witch costume. So I got it for her.
When she was younger and could barely dress herself, I still gave her a choice on what she wanted to wear. When we went shopping I would hold up two shirts and let her pick between them. In the morning getting dressed I would bring out three of her own shirts and let he pick what she wanted, I did the same for her shorts or skirts. Now, of course I am influencing her a bit. She had to pick from my choices. But I gave her a choice. She’s not nor has she ever been a doll I am dressing up. And eventually one day she grew big enough to pick her own clothes out from the dresser and from the department store. Unless I have a serious objection over money, I’ll get it for her.
Perhaps those ideas will change. Maybe she’ll start dressing in a way that will upset me. So far, even if I find some of her choices or color schemes pure agony, I just let her be. When she wanted to cut her hair short on one side and long on the other; I just let her be. I draw the line at permanent hair dyes because that’s just harmful in the long run with all the bleaching. she can do it when she’s older. She’s never fought me on that decision.
Do I fear one day she’ll start dressing slutty? I think that’s a big question in the mind of a lot of parents to girls. Yes, I am. But it’s not because I fear anything wrong in her character. I’m afraid because I know what other people will think and say about her. I’m afraid of perverts oggling her as she is innocently shopping with her friends at a mall. I’m afraid of the world she lives in. And that has nothing to do with her clothes, especially not in Miami where everyone is walking around in cut off everything. She wouldn’t even stand out. So it’s really not the clothes, it’s just people…. blech.
I guess my point is, I want her to feel comfortable being herself. Just like I am myself and while I may be influenced by fashions I can’t ever remember a time my mother forbade me to wear something. Even though I know she hated my clothing choices and still does. Since high school I preferred black, greys and dark fall colors which she hates. She loves bright flashy colors, I hate them. But it’s okay because we respect each others preferences.
I leave with this funny story: one day, after many years, my mother finally bought me a piece of clothing I liked. Actually, I loved it. I wore it until it was in tatters. So I asked her, “mom, how did you get it right after so many years? I love this color.” She says, perfectly straight, “I looked for the ugliest color I could find.”