Everyone's a critic, so when it comes to the clothes you choose for your kids (or they choose for themselves) it seems like everyone has something to say. While having opinions is fine, so many of the things people say about my kids clothing are shaming and, and a result, can even harm them. So, um, you may want to consider keeping your opinions to yourself.
It starts when they are young. Like when someone misgendered my infant daughter, because she was wearing a blue onesie. I tried to ignore the mistake, but instead snapped back, "Actually, she's a girl," only to hear, "Then, why is she wearing a 'boy' color?" and felt ashamed that I cared what this particular stranger thought. So I responded, "There are no 'boy' colors," and found myself in an argument with a stranger in the checkout line. (The first of many, it turns out.)
Then, as my children grew and developed their own personalities and sense of style, I have found myself having super awkward moments. Was I OK with my toddler son wearing glittery Frozen boots? The answer was, of course, yes, but then I've spent the last year dealing with people's comments and trying to make him feel good about his choice. You wear those gorgeous boots proudly, and don't pay attention to what other people think.
Getting ready for school is a constant struggle. Some mornings we have to help kids get up, dressed, fed, and out the door to meet the bus or pack into the car for preschool. I try not to argue about clothes, unless there's a health or weather concern, but even then, if the choice is matching socks and a long-sleeved shirt or getting them to school on time in mismatched socks and a tank top, I often don't choose to fight that battle.
So, the next time you think about making a comment or asking a question about someone else's kid's clothes, don't. Or, at the very least, consider the ways those comments can be potentially hurtful. Here are a few:
When They Misgender My Kids Based On Their Clothes
When you misgender children, you harm them. Your comments may reinforce social norms about what colors or clothes are "appropriate" for a female or male child to like or wear. You may be misgendering a transgender, agender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming child, which can really hurt or cause confusion. You may even cause a child to doubt who they are. That is wrong. Don't do it. If you make a mistake, say you're sorry, and for goodness sake don't argue about it.
When They Comment On My Kids' Size
All of my kids have received comments about the size of their clothes, from my giant 4-year-old son and slender 6-year-old stepson, who wear the same size to my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old stepdaughter who feel insecure about their size. All of my kids are healthy. Comments about their height, weight, size clothes they wear, or that they have outgrown their pants are shaming and can harm their self-confidence and self esteem. Just don't.
When They Reinforce Gender Roles
It's OK for girls to like dinosaurs and boys to wear dresses. It's fine. Shut up about it.
When They Notice My Kids Wear Hand-Me-Downs
We have four kids. You bet we hand clothes down in an attempt to save money. This isn't something to be ashamed about; it's smart. Don't be a classist jerk by commenting about it.
When They Criticize My Kids' Fashion Sense
Childhood is a time that kids should be able to explore who they are, even if that means they mix colors and prints that would make Tim Gunn want to vomit. Let them have fun. Shhhh.
When They Say Something About Dirt Or Stains
My kids have fun, so it's inevitably that their clothes will get dirty. Sometimes stains don't come out in the wash. I would rather have happy, muddy boot-wearing kids, than kids who are worried about getting paint on their fancy clothes.
When They Slut-Shame My Kids
Commenting about my daughters not looking like "ladies" or slut-shaming them is not OK. School dress codes are bullsh*t, sexist, and largely unnecessary. I don't care if you can see her tank top strap or she's not wearing shorts under her skirt. Please don't slut shame my young children. It's gross.
When They Ask Me Where I Bought My Kids' Clothes, And Cringe
I shop at second-hand stores, outlets, and clearance racks. I buy a ton when things are on sale. My self-worth is not determined by the label on my kids' jeans. What is this? High School?
When They Question Whether My Kids' Clothes Are Appropriate For The Occasion
My stepson wore a lei to his Holiday concert. So what? My daughter likes to wear sparkly skirts to school. Who cares? We don't. Mind your own business and don't you dare make a child feel bad. Monster.
When They Passive Aggressively Ask To Buy My Kids' New Clothes
I see what you are doing. You think that it's nice to offer to buy my children new things, when you are really making a dig at their choices or my decision to let them choose their own clothes or to experience natural consequences for wearing a tank top on a chilly day. They are fine. I am fine. Please stop. Shhhh.