If you struggle to get yourself and your kids out the door on time in the morning, please raise your hand. Keep your hand raised if part of that morning struggle involves dressing a young child. Yep. I see all you parents out there and I know the struggle is real. And it's so frustrating when you have lunches to pack, breakfasts to make, coffee to drink, book bags to load, and you're stuck in the bedroom with a little person in front of you who is crying about the pants you picked out.
You want to shout: "Just put them on and let's go!"
This has been me many mornings. So recently I stopped and did some hard reflecting on why things were happening the way they were. Luckily, my daughter is five, so I can also involve her in these conversations, albeit in a calmer moment when cooler heads can prevail. And what I thought was just a cranky, morning power struggle was actually more than that. When I got down on my daughter's level and asked her why she was so upset about getting dressed each morning, her answer to me was that the clothes I pick out are not "fancy enough."
Ding, ding, ding! And there's the problem. I am not a fancy person.
When I was five there was nothing on earth my mother could have done to make me wear a dress or some ruffly, pink skirt. I was a tomboy, through and through. It was pants or shorts or nothing. I wasn't interested in ribbons in my hair or sequins on my shoes. I was interested in sports and bike-riding and imaginary lightsaber duels. I played baseball on an all-boy team and I could throw better than over half of them. And this never caused any struggles with my own mother because she was also a tomboy at that age. She could relate.
But I don't relate to fancy, even now. I am a 35-year-old woman who doesn't know how to apply makeup and only uses a hairdryer a couple of times a year. So why my daughter insists on party dresses and glittery tights is beyond me.
But guess what? This isn't really about being fancy. This is about my daughter feeling confident in the way she looks. And once I realized that, then it all made sense.
So even though I struggle to feel "girly" or "fancy," I know what it is to feel confident in the way you look. As a business woman, I understand that there is power in looking good and feeling confident. If I am heading to a meeting with a local provider, I don't run out in yoga pants and a sweatshirt. No, I stand in my closet and put some time into thinking about what I am going to wear. Because the clothes I wear are a reflection of me and my business. I want to wear something that I think makes me look not only professional, but also look good. Even if I'm not a pro, I still take the time to put on some makeup and brush my hair. And I do all of this because I understand that when I look good, I also feel good. And when I feel good, I feel confident. And when I'm feeling confident, watch out world!
So is it impossible to think that my five-year-old feels the same way? Of course not!
This was the moment when I realized that this wasn't about some kind of power struggle. This wasn't about playing dress-up or make believe. This was my daughter expressing to me that she has her own style.
Even if she can't quite articulate this, she knows what it's like to feel good in the clothes she wears and she doesn't want to put on something that doesn't make her feel good.
So in an effort to end these morning-time battles, I took my daughter shopping. For years we have been a family of hand-me-downs or gifted clothes from Grandmom. And don't get me wrong, all of those clothes are great. But it hadn't dawned on me that my daughter was finally at an age where she needs to have some control in what she looks like. She is developing a personal style and she needs to be able to express it. And her personal style is not my style and that's okay.
I let her wander the aisles at Target and pick the clothes she liked. Were they the outfits I would have picked for her? Absolutely not. And that's why this was so important. She needed to be able to find her own clothes - her own voice - so that each morning she could put on something that made her feel good. Because it doesn't matter to me if she's a "girly-girl" or a "tomboy" (and what do these labels really mean anyway?). What matters to me is that my daughter feels confident.
And somehow I had forgotten that simple, yet powerful, message. When we look good to ourselves, we feel good about ourselves, too.
Whether it's a stylish blouse and black slacks or a sequined pink dress paired with rainbow unicorn leggings, the feeling that my daughter and I have when we look in the mirror is the same - when we like what we see, we feel confident about ourselves. (And, hey, I know we all struggle with confidence sometimes - that's why I wrote this. Check it out.)
So now we have more outfits in rotation that were hand-selected by my daughter and deemed fancy enough for her approval. She is excited to get dressed in the morning and I'm happy to see her look in the mirror and smile at what she sees. And, let me tell you, it's made those morning struggles disappear. Well, at least the ones that revolve around getting dressed.