I Let My Daughter Start Dressing Herself & It Was Revolutionary

When my due date with our daughter came and went, and I still hadn’t given birth, people started to worry for me. Not because I was late, but because she was now going to be born under a different sign: Scorpio. Everyone warned me about Scorpios, saying they were difficult, willful, and they always insisted they were right. Guys, that's my daughter. So when it got to the point that my child was making life hell over a pair of socks I had picked out for her, I started to let my daughter dress herself. (It should be noted that my sign is Cancer and I bristle at confrontation.)

I never wanted my kids, especially my daughter, to put too much emphasis on appearances. There is enough scrutiny of the female form as it is, and I wanted to try to teach my kids that it’s what is inside that counts. But I realized I couldn’t totally dismiss the outside either, and choosing our outfits is how we express ourselves. My child didn’t always have the vocabulary to articulate her evolving thoughts about the world, but she had a choice of clothes was able to draw from. She could show us all what made her happy, which just so happened to be magenta hearts and leopard prints.

A lot was set in motion when I started letting my daughter dress herself, beyond making our mornings easier. Here are a few things that happened:

I Learned More About Her

Courtesy of Liza Wyles

As I witnessed my daughter making choices about her outfits, I didn’t pay attention solely to the clothes themselves. I also focused on how she made her decisions. She operated from a position of confidence, never doubting how those polka dot leggings would look when paired with that plaid shirt. She never changed her mind, either. Once she was dressed, there was no going back (until she spilled food on herself, which was often because she was a 2-year-old toddler). I was so impressed by her assuredness. It showed me how I needed to drum up more self-confidence in my own decision-making skills.

Her Own Style Started To Emerge

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but the mismatched outfits my 2-year-old daughter would choose for herself stopped looking random to me after a while, and started to resemble an actual style. She always chose prints, with predominantly dark pink — not light pink — shades, and never ever wore jeans.

And then at around age 8, her style further evolved. She wasn’t afraid of mixing and matching patterns, but her color choices were more subdued. And what drove her most was comfort. She was becoming a full fledged human, who was getting in touch with herself. It was pretty cool to watch.

We Stopped Battling Over Clothes

Having kids taught me to choose my battles. I was steadfast about bedtime and not having technology at the table. But about her outfits matching? I could afford to let that one go. As long as I made sure there were only climate-appropriate clothing choices, I could give my daughter free reign over her ensemble.

She Started Creating Delightful Narratives To Accompany Her Outfits

There was always a reason why she had chosen that particular skirt and top. It was fascinating to hear my daughter describe what went into her decisions when she got dressed in the morning. “Well, I need to be fancy because that’s what makes me feel good. And you should wear a dress to work today, Mama.” If I had let her, she would have taken control of my wardrobe too. I probably would have benefited from it, actually, since I didn’t veer much from my uniform of mostly black.

I Started Worrying About What People Thought Of My Parenting Style…

As my daughter’s emerging style could only be categorized as “unbridled,” I began to be self-conscious for her. I feared other parents would question my parenting skills. If I was so aloof about my daughter’s bizarre sense of fashion, what else might I be laissez-faire about? Manners? Cleanliness? I worried, not what people would think of her, but what they would think of me.

… And Then Learned Not To Care

Being self-conscious has never served me well, my friends. I would have the tendency to spend way too much energy imagining that people were judging me, when the fact was that most people are so self-absorbed to pay that much attention to what others are doing. So even if I did notice a raised eyebrow here and there when my daughter skipped out in rain boots and a tank top of mine worn as a dress, I trained myself to not let it bother me.

I Took More Fashion Risks Myself

I don’t often take life lessons from toddlers, but in this case I thought my daughter was on to something. She was expressing herself through her clothes, something I used to do more as a kid, but so much less so now that I'm a boring adult working in an office. I dug my old school Star Wars t-shirt out of my drawer, and wore it under a blazer. I stopped shoving my feet into uncomfortable heels, and bought some funky wedges. I still looked professional, but I felt more like me.

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