As a childless and slightly judgmental 20-something-year-old I would often spy kids in a shopping centre dressed like they had stumbled out of a dress-up box and smugly think, I would never let my children choose their own outfits. My children would be dressed in a beautifully muted and genderless colour palette, all-natural fibres and consciously devoid of logos and graphics.
My somewhat snobbish plan went perfectly for the first few years of parenthood and my son was more or less happy to be dressed in whatever I chose. On the days where he did offer some resistance, I would give him two options and he was content enough having the freedom of that choice.
Then along came my daughter. She has very specific taste and is fiercely and sometimes terrifyingly stubborn. A stand-off over clothing can last an hour and it didn’t take long before I realised, this was not a battle worth fighting.
We recently set off for the shops with her dressed in a red and green striped Rabbitohs rugby league jersey with a pink tulle Batman tutu.
There are other reasons I have changed my stance on children selecting their own outfits. At five, I still dress my son most days. I can’t help but think if I gave him little bit more autonomy over his clothing choices at a younger age, he might have been more willing to give up his personal valet service. His younger sister’s independence suggests that is the case. At two, she usually dresses herself and I know better than to try to help her. I’ve also relaxed my rules because my hypothetical linen-wearing children didn’t really have personalities. My actual children do. It’s a joy to see them expressing their creativity, their distinctive personalities shining through. I love watching their confidence growing. I love seeing them being empowered by their own choices.
My tiny toddler daughter is a free spirit, unburdened from constraints of self-consciousness. I envy how oblivious she is to boring societal expectations. For now, I love that her eccentric sense of style brings a smile to the face of anyone who witnesses her confident and joyful strut. That seems like as good a reason as any.