I loved my tube top and my platform shoes. I loved them so much that I still remember them 40 years later. Thankfully, there are no pictures memorializing that era of my life. But at the time, I felt so fashionable and chic. And, the best part, I don't remember feeling any judgment. Not from my parents. Not from anyone else.
Once I became a mother, I knew that I wouldn't care about letting my kids make their own decisions about clothes and hair. And for a long time, I kept to my personal promise. Truthfully, it wasn't hard because my first two kids were "Alex Keaton" types who always dressed very conservatively. In fact, my inclination was to say, "Lighten up guys. Wear something a little more cutting edge. Go wild with a tank top (for my daughter) and a non-polo shirt (for my son)."
I knew things had changed when my third kid appeared one school morning in a very short skirt. She walked into the kitchen and asked the daily question, "How do I look?" I saw this beautiful girl in a chic outfit that would definitely garner some attention. But conservative it was not. Her motto: The shorter the better. So, as the shorts got shorter, I said, "You can't go out of the house wearing that." I fell prey to those words, but I wasn't sure why.
I saw myself as someone who wouldn't care but, somewhere along the way, I lost myself to the pressure of community. I felt strongly that the clothes my teenagers wore needed to match the community norm. (And this did not include any bandeaus - the 2013 version of my tube top or short skirts.) I think I was most worried about someone saying, "How did her mother let her leave the house in that?" So, I worked hard to stay clear of judgment--not judgment of my kids, but judgment of me as a mom.
One rule had always been non-negotiable in my house. I've always told my kids that they must follow the school's dress code. However, that had nothing to do with judgment, I just believe in following the rules.
But beyond the school dress code, I understood that our community had its own standard of dress. As moms, we quickly learned that standard. Standing around looking at prom pictures, we--the moms--judged. "How did that mother...?" Well, no one wants to be THAT mother.
One day, I had this epiphany--I didn't really care about some of the rules that I had imposed. In fact, I realized that I was more worried about what people would think (and say) about ME. My motive had been about protecting myself instead of making a decision based on our own family values. This revelation was a big one; one of those moments when you remember where you were standing. And at that moment, everything changed.
I have since let go of caring about what other people say about my kids' clothes. And to my third child, I apologize (publicly) for having cared too much.
Susan Borison is the Publisher and Editor In Chief of Your Teen Media. Your Teen Media: Helping parents understand, influence and guide their teenagers.