I'll never forget the day I tried to put a plaid shirt with plaid shorts on my son. I thought it was fine, but it seems I was very, very, wrong. Every woman I've ever known thought I had recently suffered a head injury, and even a couple of my guy friends thought I was somewhat visually impaired. Clearly my son's chances at the Supreme Court were diminishing.
Can you guess who didn't care? My son.
I don't believe children's fashion is an important part of life. Of all the things we want our kids to enjoy, looking cool shouldn't be one of them. Parents can be vain and we often see our children as a reflection of ourselves -- from behavior to grades to fashion, the moms and dads at the park are silently judging each other based on their kids. But there is a lesson we should have learned before becoming parents: "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Kids have so much adventure to experience and so many lessons to learn that plaids and polka dots shouldn't even register on the radar. Let them get paint in their hair, sand in their shoes. Let them make mud pies with their best friends. Kids get one shot at childhood. They can't relive it nor can they have a do-over. Imagine the time and money you would save if you stopped caring about your toddler's color combinations and pattern matches. The possibilities are endless and your child will love you for it. Really.
Perhaps no one said it better than Oscar Wilde when he uttered the phrase, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." We actually have shows on television that glamorize adorable toddler girls being dragged from pageant to pageant so they can live out their parents' unfulfilled dreams of stardom and beauty. No toddler should care that much about a tiara unless it adorns the head of her favorite stuffed animal at a living room tea party. Any parent who turns innocent fun into some sort of militant Barbie dress-up competition should be ashamed.
Our children have a few short years to prepare for adulthood and there isn't a college in the world -- not Harvard, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising or Clown College -- that cares what they wore in their youth. No doubt, high school can be a nightmare. Peer pressure, social acceptance, the in-crowd, bullying, hormones, and homework can wreak real havoc on an impressionable mind. The job of parents is to remind their kids of what is truly important and help them occasionally take a step back and look at the big picture. Parents who succeed at that will be appreciated by their kids because they are doing the right thing.
It is essential that we help our kids focus on the most important elements of their lives while giving them enough breathing room to make their own path. Priorities will ebb and flow from one year to the next, but there are still vital aspects of childhood that shouldn't be ignored for the satisfaction of public judgment. My son has worn that plaid-on-plaid outfit a few times and not once was he arrested by the fashion police or sent home from school. I still think he can become chief justice of the Supreme Court. After all, he might like the switch from his dad's plaid-a-palooza to an all-black robe.
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