Thursday, March 31, 2011

Toddlerhood 101: Dress and Grooming

I continue to shamelessly copy Kacy and Lisa with my own feeble attempt at a series. This time I want to talk about dress and grooming. Maybe it's not a problem for you. Maybe your 2-4 year old just puts on whatever clothes you throw at him without complaint. If that is the case, then you are very blessed. Unfortunately for me, each of my children has been very particular about what they will and will not wear. This particularity seems endless and horrifying at the time, but it is usually let go of at some point when you least expect it, and certainly not when you are in the middle of fighting over it.

I guess what goes around comes around because when I was a toddler I wouldn't wear pants. Not necessarily because I wanted to be frilly all the time, but because, I would wail while having a huge struggle with my mother with five minutes to go before we had to be at preschool, "they have PLEATS!" What did I mean by pleats? I don't know. Sometimes I would wear knit pants, referred to simply as "my knits." This was before the days of sweats for children and soft jersey yoga pants, I guess, because they were literally made of knit wool. They were navy blue as I recall, with a matching fair isle top. But I digress. Anyway, by the time I made it to kindergarten, pleats were no longer an issue and I even wore jeans on my first day. See? Everything was all right (until I decided to pretend an old, plastic, black typewriter case was a brief case and take it to school to try to be like Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties.")

My children's weird clothing quirks include but are not limited to wearing a ratty old baseball cap 24 hours a day, even to bed; insisting on wearing extremely tight skinny wranglers; only wearing fuzzy footed pajamas, even in summer; only wearing sweat pants and zip up tennis shoes; wearing skirts over jeans; favoring only those things that blatantly do not match; wearing a single shirt over and over again; and insisting on Carhartt brand EVERYTHING.

And then there are the dreadlocks forming on the back of Ruby's head because she won't let me comb it. Won't LET you comb it? Yeah, that's right. She won't. I see these little girls with elaborate braids and perfectly matching, painfully adorable outfits with detachable fur collars, and I wonder how their moms do it. And then I have the equally unsettling thought that those same moms are looking at me and wondering why I allow my children to look so unkempt. Once someone even said this to me: "Your daughters don't need to wear cute clothes and have their hair done cute to be adorable." hmmmm. Was that supposed to be a compliment?

Which leads me to my dress and grooming tips. I only have two because the whole dress and grooming issue is actually way simpler than it seems.

1. This is your new standard: are your toddlers' clothes clean? Are they seasonally appropriate? Has your toddler bathed recently? Is he relatively clean? Does she have lice? No? See! You are an awesome mom!

2. Remember this: your toddler is not an extension of you, but an individual human being who needs to express herself (especially in weird ways). Kids are not accessories (although when they wear a multi-pocketed jacket they can make a great purse, ala Ahn Yeong and Lucille Bluth)

I have only recently discovered the concept that my children are not an extension of me. I am just now starting to realize that the reason I fight with my kids over their hair and clothing is a selfish one. I don't want to look bad. If Holden wears a ratty old baseball cap everywhere he goes, what will those mothers of boys who wear seersucker suits and bow ties to church think of me? It's really all about me when my kids don't look right. If we could somehow let go of that need to look good through our children, dress and grooming wouldn't be such a problem. We'd realize that these phases will eventually pass and we would never feel the need to say out loud, to any judgmental mother listening in the check out line, "Geez, Ruby, we need to brush your hair, don't we?" or "who chose your outfit today, Hazel?!" etc. (For an excellent treatise on mothers judging mothers, please go here.)

You can always make suggestions, buy the cutest clothes you can that coordinate, persuade, bribe, and model cute dress and grooming habits, but remember: when you force your kid to look a certain way, you are really just doing it for yourself.


  1. You have to be brought low before you can see the light. That's what kids are for.

    Your knits were acrylic.

  2. My kids have to wear uniforms to school so I gave up the battle on what they look like the rest of the time. Well, at least with Josh. I let Clara wear whatever now (seasonally appropriate) because I know the battle will come next year when her clothes are boring.

  3. I haven't brushed my teeth for three days--I'm on vacation

  4. Hahaha, ah Cami. That still gives me a chuckle.