For Charlotte’s eight birthday recently, I bought her a gift card for Justice, a popular girls clothing store. They sell a lot of bright colors, and nearly everything has glitter or sequins. And lately they have a continual video feed of Justin Bieber music videos (plus t-shirts).
At this point, some moms are cringing, and others are getting themselves worked up about the appropriateness of dressing little girls like little girls.
My daughter wears a uniform to school. Every day, she has a white blouse plus her choice of blue school-plaid jumper, blue school-approved shorts, or blue school-approved uniform pants. When it gets cold, she’s got a couple of school logo sweaters and sweatshirts to choose from. Shoes are either plain black/brown casual ones or else all-white sneakers. Getting dressed is a total no-brainer (nevermind that she still drags her feet about it). It is also pretty limiting for her self expression.
Left to her own devices, she dresses like Rainbow Brite (remember her? Every stitch of clothing, and possibly her hair, was a different color). Yep. That’s Charlotte. On Sunday she had on a florescent yellow ruffled skirt, fluorescent orange top, red and green knee socks, and purple shoes. My husband and I raise our eyebrows at her color selections, but as long as the occasion isn’t too formal (it wasn’t), and the clothes are appropriately sized and for the weather (they were), then we just let it go.
So back to Justice and her gift card. The store is one of her favorites because everything in the place is glittery and rainbow-y, and, lately, looks like what I wore as a kid in the 80’s. Lots of fluorescents. Big boxy shirts over leggings (though they haven’t re-instituted stirrups yet). Denim skirts (these days the manufacturers are sewing shorts into them, so really they are denim skorts—much more playground friendly). Definitely a Who’s That Girl (Madonna? Crazy 80’s movie?) kind of vibe. Perfect for a girl who loves rainbows and needs outfits for playtime after school and on weekends.
Yesterday she walked in the door, gift card in hand, and had no idea where to start shopping. And then came the Mom Guilt. I don’t take her shopping very often. I am horrible at shopping with other people, and even worse at shopping with my kids. I tend to panic picking out Christmas gifts because there are too many choices. And I get easily frustrated with the kids changing their minds or just not making up their minds when looking for birthday party gifts. In other words, I’ve never taught my daughter how to shop. I usually just come home with a bag full of cute outfits in her size and hope she likes them. That used to be a good strategy.
Ok, she’s only eight. She doesn’t need to know how to build a wardrobe. And she has just last year mastered multiple digit addition and subtraction—calculating percent-off sales is still too much for her. So she needs guidance. And I am not good at guiding without outright
controlling the end result. I do math in my head, have a clear picture of what I think she needs in her closet, have a decent eye for fit before getting to the dressing room. But the whole point of a gift card is to give her more control, more say, more choice. And to let her experience the fun of browsing, trying on clothes, matching up outfits.
It was frustrating. There were multiple rounds of picking out clothes, calculating prices, putting clothes back, major disappointment when she realized that the black acid-washed stretch jeans (hello 80’s) didn’t come in her size, and so on. And then, at checkout, when she had just a little more picked out than her gift card could handle (and I’d already agreed to kick in a few extra $ for sake of keeping an outfit together), she spotted the Accessories. Buy 2 Get 2 Free plus 40% off. But she was out of money. And I was out of patience. And we both nearly had a meltdown right there at the register.
The major lesson for me is that my daughter needs to be taken shopping more often. Not outrageous, no “Here honey, take Daddy’s credit card” or anything. But she does need control and some freedom to choose within limits. And she needs to learn to save a little money, and to deal with delayed gratification. I tried to suggest (demand) that she work on earning her allowance and plan to come back in a few weeks to pick out a necklace or bracelet. She needs to actually do that and see the whole cycle through—from chores to allowance to shopping.
Also, I need to not take Trystan with us. He likes to spin the clothes racks, has no idea why he isn’t allowed to pick out matching pink-and-purple “Best Friends” necklaces for himself, or green leggings, and thinks it’s funny to peek under the curtain of the dressing area. On the bright side, he loves Justin Bieber as much as his sister, and was content to dance to the music videos for a good stretch of time.