Why I Empower My Daughter by Letting Her Dress Herself

When it comes to fashion, our daughter loves making her own choices. I learned quickly to empower my daughter by letting her dress herself. In fact, I stopped picking out her outfits soon after she could toddle into her closet and pull clothes off the hangers.

I didn’t make this decision intentionally, but by default, because her sheer will was forcing me down this path, where she could wear her joy.

She chose pieces with abandon; pairing bright, loud floral with equally bright, loud stripes or polka dots, chunky boots with frilly dresses. She complimented her Mary Jane shoes with knee-length socks and soccer shorts.

I purchased all of her clothing with clear visions of perfectly coordinated outfits. She pieced everything together haphazardly. At least, I thought she did.

She’s Always Had a Mind of Her Own

But my daughter, she knew what she was doing. She dressed for joy. To hell with matching. She accessorized with abandon, cutting the flowers off her hair clips so she could pin them on her clothing. She wore legwarmers on her arms and threaded an old rhinestone brooch through a string of yarn for a necklace.

All those months I spent pregnant, I daydreamed about darling boutique clothes. I often envisioned my daughter dressed as the perfect little doll. But sometimes life doesn’t go in the direction you plan, I quickly realized.

What Would Other People Think?

I confess that in the beginning, it embarrassed me. I worried about what people would think. Would they assume I didn’t know how to dress her? Or that we couldn’t manage to buy coordinating clothes?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but rather than recognizing her independent style and creativity, I initially tried to change her mind. I tied my competence as a mom to her appearance. That’s messed up.

But that’s what we do, right? We create these little humans in our own image and try to mold them into what we think they should be and what other people think they should be.

Then, we take our insecurities and issues and brokenness and try to fix it with our children. We try to show the world and say, “Look! I’m getting it right! I made this perfectly polished, adorable, talented, amazing little person!”

Because if we can’t measure up ourselves, then we sure as hell will try and measure up through our kids.

The Comparison Game

Other moms I knew were busy sharing photos of their beautifully coordinated Gap Kids on social media. My child didn’t look like the Gap Kid or the Target Kid. She looked like the “My Mom Didn’t Do All the Laundry” kid. I felt like we were totally missing the mark.

I struggled daily. It was an internal battle with myself and an external battle with my young daughter. Still, most of the time, I let my daughter express her own style. I fought the underlying desire for perfection because I also believed in letting her be herself.

I grew up in an environment where what you wore and how you looked defined you as a person, I understood on a deeper level the importance of letting her express herself.

Plus, it didn’t take long to learn it was easier to let her wear orange and white leggings, a pink tutu, and a red polka dot shirt to the grocery store than it was to go through the drama and the tears that would come from making her change clothes. If she felt strongly about pairing purple shoes with a pink skirt, so be it. In the grand scheme of things, I had bigger fish to fry than her color combos.

Eventually, I relented, and it wasn’t long before I realized a new truth:

It’s Not About Me

I realized that to raise a strong, confident daughter, I would need to stop sending her the message her personal taste was wrong…which then sent the message that she was wrong. She needed to feel good about her decisions. So if I continued to challenge her at every turn, that would only enforce the message that I got growing up:

Your taste is wrong. Your opinion is wrong. You are wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

It’s a total confidence killer. Trust me on that.

So, I changed. Whenever she came out of her room looking like a little like a hot mess, I would take a deep breath and smile. I stopped trying to coerce her into changing into a matching outfit and dictating her style.

Ultimately, I made one rule: She must dress appropriately for the weather and the clothes must be clean. I mean really, what was the harm in letting her wear what she wanted to wear?

Soon, I began looking forward to seeing what she put together. I began to embrace her individualism and self-expression. I learned to let go and stop trying to make her look perfect.

And then, I realized, that in another way, it was about me.

It was about me, because, as someone who worries about what other people think, it’s very difficult to let your child walk out the door in purple jeans, a cheetah print dress, and sparkly pink Barbie boots.

As someone who grew up with unhealthy views on how much appearances matter, letting my daughter go to school dressed in mix-matched attire is a big deal.

For far too long, I felt I had to act perfect and look perfect and be perfect. That’s no way to live life. But my daughter taught me to let go of what people think about me. By letting my daughter be herself, I’m learning to be myself, too.

I’m learning how to wear what I want. Say what I think. Laugh more. Express creativity.

I’m learning to lighten the hell up.

So yes, see that little girl mismatched diva? That’s my girl. She’s awesome. She’s creative. She’s a joy. She’s exuberant. She dances to the beat of her own drum.

And, she’s got a damn good sense of style.


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