I always said that as a mother I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. I said that I would embrace and encourage my children’s personal expression, and encourage it. l’d cite another mother I knew as a kid who allowed her daughter to wear an upside-down woven basket with a handle to church as a hat because she wanted to.
Until a few weeks ago, this was all very easy. Violet was a malleable child. She dressed up at Tattoo from Fantasy Island at my behest last year for Halloween and said “De Plane! De Plane!”, on command. She wore pants to school every day instead of the pressed frocks that her fellow female preschoolers wore. Her favorite movie was “Cars” and she pretended to be a race car all the time and begged for “Lightning McQueen” shoes. Until a week-and-a-half ago, both Violet and Hazel were saying that they wanted to be “Spiderman, not Spidergirl” for Halloween.
On the occasions where they viewed a commercial or cartoon premise that I found to be objectionable to feminism, I spoke to them about my dislike of it and what I thought was an enlightened alternative stance, and they seemed to get it.
In my mind, I’d done all the right things. I’d shielded them from “princess culture”. I was encouraging strong, thinking girls and was fostering their creativity without getting too mired down in being strict, allowing them to dress up in girly-girl dresses occasionally, and play with dolls, thinking that one didn’t need to resort to dressing them like tiny Gertrude Steins in order to maintain our life of bohemian-intellectual-liberalism.
And then Violet kept asking to wear “fancy dresses”.
And then she asked for a “Disney Princess” lunchbox.
And then she told me she wanted to be a “fairy princess” for Halloween.
And both girls started having major fits about everything they wore.
It’s taking me an hour to and hour-and-a half to get them dressed in the morning these days, accounting for pink, fluffy dresses being in the wash, shoes being unacceptable from moment to moment, sweaters not being worn despite gale force winds outside and all of the accompanying tantrums that seem have blown in overnight.
They also started having the sartorial tastes of bag ladies gone off their meds.
I had just purchased an abundance of high-quality, fashion forward, pants-based clothing for them for Fall. And it was all rejected.
Case in point: Here’s an outfit that I bought for Violet:
Look! It’s girly even! Tap-inspired shoes with ribbon bows! Pink faux riding crop pants! A girlish take on the classic tuxedo print shirt! What’s not to like???!!!!
She insisted on wearing the following get-up.
Quel hideous. Neon green dress with ink-stain. Check. Orange knee-high socks paired with hiking shoes. Check.
And look at Hazel! She’s wearing the “if I can’t wear this second hand thing from my great-grandmother every single day for the rest of my life I will scream and spit and hit you for hours” dress. She’s also paired it with too-large rain boots on a hot day.
I did the right thing. I put away the tuxedo shirt and the tap-inspired shoes, and let them look like the crazy people they are; children who have a right not to be governed by the fashion police, children who deserve to stain their clothes with ink, children who deserve to feel good in their clothing.
And then I immediately tried to convert their choices in Halloween costumes.
“Don’t you want to be this walrus?” I said pointing to the catalog. “You could say ‘Coo Coo Kachoo!!!!?’
“Don’t you want to wear the Max in the Wolf Costume costume?!!! Look!!! It even has a crown! You could order the Wild Rumpus to begin!!!”
“I want to be a strawberry-girl.”
Fine. I give up. Gag me with a lollipop.
So I indulged and bought a photo of Alfred Lothar Wegener, the explorer, geophysicist and meteorologist who advanced the theory of Continental Drift, which led to the acceptance of Plate Tectonics. It will go in our adventure-themed media room and stare down at them every time they dare to ask to watch “Sofia the First”.
This was a man who knew how to create an ensemble.