As parents, we watch our children learn who they are with each passing day. The small choices they make as children become much bigger by the time they're ready to leave home. Here's why a little girl with a catalog and a marker is a force to be reckoned with.
Yesterday, my daughter came running through the house and into the kitchen with a sense of urgency in her voice and intensity in her eye.
“Mommy,” she asked, holding a catalog in one hand and pointing with her other, “will you buy me this bathing suit?”
There, before me on the page, was perhaps the ugliest bathing suit I’ve ever laid eyes on. She hadn’t chosen the lovely pink one with the subtle, tiny strawberries. Nor had she opted for the pale blue gingham suit that I had chosen for her days prior.
Instead, she chose a bright lemon-colored suit, with a large fuchsia and orange circular pattern. “There are so many things that I love in this catalog, Mommy!” she beamed.
Curious, I handed her a marker and helped her up to the breakfast bar and asked her to circle her favorites. As she flipped past the blue and white seersucker shorts I planned to order her and circled the neon madras print Bermuda shorts, it was a bittersweet moment.
In recent weeks, she’s shown a new interest in choosing her outfit each morning. Until now, I shopped for and selected her clothes and chose what she would wear each day. But now, before she comes downstairs for the day, she’s completely dressed — often in clothes that shouldn’t see the light of day when paired together.
The most memorable outfit came last week, when she chose a jewel-toned striped dress and paired it with light pink Valentine’s Day tights, complete with hearts.
And though it pained me, I let her wear it. Because at almost 5 years old, she is learning to trust herself. She’s making decisions that have low stakes and she’s gaining confidence as she goes. Each time I trust her and afford her that freedom of choice and support her sense of self-expression, I am helping her to see how much I respect her.
Today, she’s choosing clothes. Tomorrow, the stakes will be much higher and she’ll be choosing her own friends, boyfriends and colleges.
Supporting her as she finds her way may hurt my eyes a bit right now, but it’s an investment in who I hope she grows to be — a confident, self-assured woman.
So, as I sit here and flip through the catalog, I see the large bright pink circles she made around her favorites and those bold circles show me that we’re off to a good start, as she’s on the right path.
And in coming weeks, if you see an almost-5-year-old wearing neon green polka-dotted shorts, a yellow graphic T-shirt with an orange on it, and pale pink flip flops, it’s probably my child.
I’ll be the mom beside her, beaming with pride and gratitude.
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