The first time Ayla walked in the house with a pair of sneakers that lit up – thanks to a shopping trip with Nana and Uncle Gabe – a chill ran down my spine and I thought about how those shoes were going to attract so much attention.
People would look at her, noticing her flashy shoes, and they might even be annoyed by those pesky little strobe lights on her feet.
I was annoyed by the pesky little strobe lights on her feet.
Like any dedicated diarist, I explored this in my journal. The shoes really bothered me, but Ayla absolutely loved them. She wanted to wear them to bed so they could be her new night light. Which, by the way, I did not permit.
I realized it wasn’t just the shoes. One look in Ayla’s closet and it was clear that her wardrobe is about being seen. When we knew we were having a girl one of the comments we heard most often is “ooo, girls are so fun shop for!”
It’s true too. There are tons of adorable choices for girls clothing and it is fun to see them start to make their own choices as they get older.
What I really noticed as I thought about this is that Ayla’s clothes are bright and eye-catching, while mine are bland and boring. The dark colors in my closet are intended to hide. The bright colors in hers are intended to stand out.
The dresses in my closet were purchased to flatter the shape that I have…or in many cases, to cover up the shape I have. The dresses in my daughters closet were made for moving and playing. Not only does she have a rainbow from which to choose her outfit everyday, she also gets to function in a big way in that rainbow.
She runs in her clothes. I wear special running clothes, also often selected to hide and perhaps make me look a little different than I actually do. Sport bras give me a funny smushed look – the more smushed, the better support, right?
My shoes are selected based on their functionality, not for their light up ability, and my hair accessories are non-existent (benefit of a pixie cut), while Ayla decorates her hair daily with anywhere from one to four hair clips, all in bright colors that match the outfit of the day.
The first time Ayla came out of her room with a leotard, tutu, and leggings on, that she had selected herself, I had a twinge similar to the one the day she came home with light up shoes. It was too much. Too noticeable, too cute, too “look at me” or “watch me, watch me, here I am!”
But, is it too much for her, or too much for me?
I made lots of deals with Ayla when she was in the oven and one of them was that she would get to choose her own clothes within the confines of a few rules.
She had to dress appropriately for the weather.
She had to wear shoes that would protect her feet, ankles, etc. in an effort to keep her joints healthy.
And there will not be any clothes with words written across the ass.
Every mom has her limits.
Ayla’s sparky wardrobe brings her joy. She is confident in her beauty, her uniqueness, and comfort level with the attention she receives.
It might turn out that when she gets older she wants to wear dark, baggy clothes and hide herself, but right now she wants to be seen.
Being seen brings her joy.
She hasn’t learned yet that she should hide and not be noticed – and seriously, what kind of messed up lesson is that, anyway?
She hadn’t been exposed to someone who makes her feel as though she’s not worthy of being in the spotlight. I know I can’t protect her from that forever, but I can encourage her to keep on keeping on.
Possibly the best way to teach our kids is to lead by example. So, I make an effort to buy more clothes in bright colors. It’s hard for me. I don’t shop often and black is just so easy.
But, when I get dressed in something more colorful and Ayla tells me how beautiful I am, I think to myself that she just may be onto something. That being seen is better than not being seen, that what I wear can bring me joy, and that maybe I should look for my own pair of light up sneakers.
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Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use self-reflection to unlock the secret to their own joy. Sara blogs regularly at saramarchessault.com, is the author of “Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling” and the creator of “My Story Journal,” which is a tool for kids to start writing their own stories. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.