Because I was at a meeting during Holly’s bedtime last night, she broke our cardinal rule about picking clothes for the next day before bed. So we were back in fashion chaos this morning ten minutes before the bus was due to arrive.
Well, to me it was chaos. To my 7-year-old it was just another day of dress-up. She seemed utterly unflustered as she held up one shirt after another. “Do you think I can wear my fluffy pink scarf with this blue shirt, or do you think it will look too fancy?” she asked.
“I think it will look nice,” I replied, and then heard the unspoken retort of my conscience – which sounded startlingly like myself at age 12 – saying “I knew you were going to say that!” It’s true; I now do exactly what I once accused my mother of: claim that any outfit Holly picks out looks “nice.” As a child, I was so skeptical of my mother’s fashion choices that her proclamations of approval were akin to George Bernard Shaw’s comments about not wanting to belong to any club that would accept him as a member: if you think it looks nice then it’s obviously too dorky to leave the house in.
At the time, I really thought my mother had a hopeless sense of style, because I assumed she was telling me the truth at all times. Similarly, when my first grade teacher said I looked “very sharp and really smart” in glasses the first time I wore glasses to school, I assumed he had terrible taste in physical appearances because I took his words at face value. Only years later did I realize he probably thought I was self-conscious about the glasses (in fact I was not) and it was his attempt to build my self-esteem.
Now that I hear myself reassuring Holly that the fuzzy pink scarf will look great with the blue jersey, though, I realize there’s another motive at play. It’s not that I’m aesthetically clueless as a mom; it’s not even the inherent bias that most moms really do think their young children look adorable in almost anything. It’s that I have a vested interest in getting her out the door, and it wasn’t looking too promising this morning.
But it turned out approving the pink scarf was insufficient for achieving that goal. “Okay, I’ll wear it,” she announced. “Now I just need help finding it.” It wasn’t with her dress-up accessories or her outerwear; nor was it on the door handle where she sometimes drapes decorative items. “The last time I saw it, Ella and I were pretending it was a leash and had it tied to a stuffed dog,” Holly recalled.
Watching the minutes tick away, I checked her toy box, then remembered that for some inexplicable reason, she and Ella like to cart things around in suitcases when they play. With one minute left to departure time, I unzipped a purple butterfly-patterned suitcase from Holly’s closet. Out tumbled the pink scarf.
“Yay!” she exclaimed, grabbing it and knotting it loosely around her neck. She climbed up on the bed so she could see herself better in the mirror. “Nope, it looks silly.” Nonchalantly, she removed the scarf and flung it into the dress-up box.
So off to school Holly went in just a regular blue shirt and jeans. She looked cute in the outfit; she had also looked cute in the scarf for which I’d squandered precious morning minutes searching her closet. But now I know: some things remain unchanged, and a daughter’s reaction to her mother’s sartorial observations is one of them. “You like it? It must look silly on me.” I don’t mind the oppositional response; I just wanted her out the door on time. Si as of tonight, it’s back to the rule of picking out school clothes the night before.