Monday, January 23, 2012


No, not that kind.  I'm not promoting MY self. 

But in Monday Morning Moms today, we talked a bit bout how we teach our children to present themselves. The discussion began with a t-shirt for a 4 year old boy that we all agreed was pretty offensive (I'm not going to share the t-shirt lest I offend the original gift-giver).  It was sold by a major children's clothing brand that we all felt should know better.  But even more than the actual content of the message lingered the question: how do we teach our children to be presentable?  On one hand, it is our job to make sure that our children know how to put their best foot forward.  On the other hand, we should be letting them figure out who they are in the world and how to express exactly who they are.  Where is the line?

We all agreed that some battles are worth fighting.  Girls should not be dressed like prostitutes if for no other reason than it sends the message to this broken world that childhood is free for sexualizing.  But others were a little trickier at the negotiating table.  T-shirts with logos or obnoxious (though non-offensive) messages?  Hair that hangs in their beautiful eyes?  And what about dressing for occasions: Do we enforce dressing up for church or let it go so that they have good feelings about this place that we want them to love?

We talked a bit about how to navigate the tricky waters of letting our kids grow and develop their own tastes but also letting them know that what they look like makes and impression on the people they come in contact with.  As with so much of what we discuss, there's no easy answer.  There's no gold standard.  

Curiously, in our house, none of this came to issue until we had a daughter.  Our son's clothes were pretty standard and non-exciting.  And except for the occasional favorite t-shirt that he wanted to pull out of the dirty hamper, we've never tussled over what to wear.

Our daughter is different.  I'm not sure why, whether it is personality, culture or some kind of subconscious influence from her parents, but our 2 1/2 year old girl is very particular about what she wears.  And there seems to be no pattern to it.  Jeans one day, tutu the next, but always with strong and purposeful opinions.  Mostly, as long as she is covered, we don't care, but we are both aware that there will come a day when we will care, when she will want to wear or do something with/on her body that is outside the realm of where we as her parents feel comfortable.  That might happen with our son, too, but the truth is, the possibilities are different with boys, mostly because of the models of sexualization of women and girls. 

And because of both of these, we end up in the tricky trap of spending more time caring about what our daughter wears than what our son wears.  Which means, in a backwards and ridiculous way, we are feeding right back into the message we are trying to avoid: that what she wears matters.  And that what he wears doesn't.

I'm overblowing this a little.  In our house, we don't really think a whole lot about what we wear (some days, this is painfully obvious!).  But as we raise these two little rugrats, I am constantly thinking about the messages we send them about how to be in the world.  I want to balance out the (very real) idea that how they present themselves is important with the idea that who they are and how they treat others is even more important.

This is a hard message to impart when every advertising message on television, radio, billboards, t-shirts and elsewhere tells them that their worth is tied to what they look like and how much they consume.  Just countering those messages with messages of the unconditional love of God and parent is a full time job in itself.

Add that to the need to keep feeding them and it is no wonder we moms are always so worn out!  

1 comment:

  1. My daughter is just 15 months old and I feel this pressure. I want her to wear all the colors in the rainbow, not just pink. I want her to express herself, as she gets older, but still understand why we dress differently for different occasions. All without putting too much emphasis on how people look. It is hard work!