We don't go to the mall much, but I recently had to return something. Afterwards, I decided to test-drive "hanging at the mall" with my five year old. Since my husband and son both seem profoundly allergic to all shopping that doesn't involve monitors or mouses, I figured it would be a big lose, but ... it was kind of fun. We visited the little fountain that he'd fallen into, the other fountain that he almost fell into, and my son shared a brand new interest with me: terrorizing pigeons. Ahem.
Hiding my son from the gaze of shocked coffee drinkers, I decided we'd check out the shoe situation at Nordstrom. After all, we always need shoes, and the chairs are nicely padded.
My son was fed up to the eyeballs with being at the mall, and high-energy. I put some shoes on him and told him to "test them," and he zoomed around for a while. I hung out. Noticed the mom next to me, who is on the floor with her very cute, very well-dressed (probably Oilily stuff? Layered cotton dressy stuff. Very spiffy.) 2 year old. There are six boxes of shoes on the floor. Nothing looked untoward. Then I heard screaming and started to pay attention. After soothing the screaming, the mom started again: "Julia, I really need to know which shoes you want." The kid turned her head away, but the mother continued. Clearly this was important. Do you like the purple, the blue with orange (mommy's favorite color), the pink with yellow flowers, or the suede?" What on earth was this woman doing?
I will cut this down. Over the course of 15 minutes, mommy solicited little Julia's opinion more and more. Finally, Julia pointed to some shoes and put them on. She liked them. Great. So then mommy says "what other shoes do you like? We're going to get two pair."
I looked at the mom. She looked normal. Honest. She wasn't poufed, hair-wise, wasn't wearing glue-on fingernails, and her eyebrows hadn't been, say, shaved and then drawn on with a pencil. She looked normal. Jeans and a t-shirt, even. No weird Jimmy Choo action.
Finally, I thought I'd stir the pot a bit. "Wow," I said. "It must be a lot different with a girl. My son is five, and I still don't ask him what he wants to wear."
The mother, obviously a very nice lady, smiled at me. "I try to only give her a few choices. She chooses all her own clothes."
Let me just say this. This child is going to grow up to be a freaking high-maintenance spoiled brat beast. Honest. This kid is TWO YEARS OLD. You should ask the darn kid what color she likes, pick two, let her choose one, and then get the heck out. Why on EARTH would you bring this level of fashion BS into a kid's life when they're 2, for God's sake?
I mean, let's talk about this rationally. When I turned twelve and started my period, I cried for a year. Oh my goodness. The CLOUDS, the CLOUDS were so dark that they just made my little heart go pitter pat. Someone looked at me wrong. Children were hungry in Biafra. Piggy died. You name it, I was a puddle of emotion. Ick. Things have stabilized a bit since and obviously, I've become significantly less empathetic, but the point here is that I was an out-of-control hormonal mess.
I'm sure that boys do stuff also, but my mother told me once (she's full of these immensely charming bits of information) that boys are "easier" because girls "pull away sooner" to become their own people.
OK. Let's say that mom's right. So? How is this kid going to start to assert herself as a person and as an individual if her entire life has been dealing with moronic fashion decisions since she was two?
Or is this just a setup so that she and mom can be best friends, which as we all know (have you read the books I have) is *not* a recipe for best parenting.
And what happens when she really wants to differentiate herself or assert herself at, say, 12, when intensity reigns supreme? I'll tell you. Rodeo freaking Drive, that's what. Gucci, Pucci, whatever the designers are, this kid will be "expressing" herself to death with them. After all, it's practically her birthright, right?
Oh YEAH. And let me tell you, the finest guys just adore high-maintenance little fashion bunnies. Ahem. Not. I mean, I guess they do, if you like guys from, say Houston. Yikes. What are these people setting into motion? Martha Stewart three, even though the DNA's a bit tweaked?
Here's MY feeling about what you do. Get your kids as dirty as possible and let them run around and enjoy things. Don't lead with fear. Today my kid picked up a spider at a store and two little girls began screaming hysterically. Who on EARTH teaches this stuff to children? Ick ick ick. We have spiders all over the place at our house. They're cool. They're pretty. Some bite. We don't pick them up with our hands and we check to see if they're in holes we make in the walls before we put our hands into them (black widows like to live in walls, btw). Sheesh. Or we avoid them. But we don't have classic "girly" screaming fits if we see one. Even if you don't like something, is there a reason to limit your kid's life by teaching your child that it's AWFUL?
The best little girls that I know are the ones who have NOT been taught to involve themselves in ... come ON ... totemic relationships to brand name fashion. My goodness. That woman should have bought her kid some shoes. Two pair, three pair, who cares? And gotten her out of the damn mall department store to go and run around and be happy somewhere. I put my kid's neat new wings right next to this kid and she was too unhappy choosing between the freaking suede and the lemon yellow with lime green spanish espadrilles to even notice a neat toy. Sheesh.
Immersing your child in HOURS worth of choosing stuff (and then more stuff) and guiding how they differentiate is just freaking too wierd. Especially if the kid is TWO YEARS OLD.
Believe me, your girl child is going to eventually care about fashion. A lot. When they do, you can support that. Or not. Or perhaps you can guide that, so your kid doesn't glue their hair down with glossy black polish, black out their teeth, and insert computer chips into their temples, or whatever wierd-ass fashion trend is happening next.
BTW, there was a vastly uptight woman sitting next to me. Her kid, a smiley little girl of 12, was trying on some adorable shoes. Shoes nowadays are so cute! They were orange and red and yellow, I think. The kid put them on and I said "what cool shoes!" Then I sat down. The mother sat, lips pursed. The kid says "you don't like them, do you" "Nope," said mom. "They don't go with anything." "But mom," says the kid, "your shoes are ugly too." They both looked at the mom's sensible shoe. "Yes," says the mom. But they're "navy."
THIS is how it's supposed to be. The 12 year old is asserting herself, or working to learn how to do it. Mom doesn't like it but she's not forbidding it. She's working to let the kid make her own fashion mistakes.
And it's happening at TWELVE. Not freaking TWO.
Oh my goodness.
First posted on anachronisticmom.blogspot.com