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Her clothes, her choice, her confidence—Why my daughter picks her own outfits

Lately, the challenges in our house are around choices. Specifically my 3-year-old making decisions for herself on what to wear, what to eat, when to do what she’s asked to do—you get the gist.

My spirited, independent, lively toddler is learning how to assert herself. She’s starting to figure out limits and boundaries and how far she can push me and her father. She is learning about who she is and the world around her.

This is the beginning of her figuring out what she likes and doesn’t like, what she wants and doesn’t want.

It is exactly what I want to be happening—right?

Right.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I like to make choices, too. Because I’m used to being in control and because honestly, sometimes it’s just easier.

However, as Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas says, “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.” (And yes—I did just quote a fictional tree character from a Disney movie. #MomLife)

‘Easy’ doesn’t always mean ‘better for our children.’

So it seems that ‘choices’ are challenging for all of us around here these days.

The other day when I asked my daughter to put on the clothes I picked for her and she came out of her room wearing a bathing suit and a tutu, I had to stop and think, Is this a battle I want to fight right now?

I decided it was, because it was a chilly day out. Sure, I want her to make choices for herself, but I also want to teach her how to make safe, sound choices. So I explained that it was a cool day and she would probably be more comfortable in a shirt with sleeves and pants of some sort. So I asked her to try again.

And she (very proudly) came out in her sister’s Halloween costume from last year—a Boots the monkey costume. “Mom! This has sleeves! This is a good choice, right?”

I stopped myself again. I really wanted to say, “You are wearing a Halloween costume that is way too tight and we need to go out in public. But I didn’t. I said, You know? You’re right! It does have sleeves. Are you comfortable? Yes? Okay, let’s get going then.” So, off we went.

I am not going to lie. It was hard. I didn’t want her to go out in the monkey costume. I wanted her to put on regular clothes.

But, as her mother, I have to start deciding what I care about or don’t care as much about. Because I am teaching her about life based on what I pay attention to.

What lessons are worth hammering home and which are okay to let slide?

Because—WHY should I care if my daughter put together a pretty wacky outfit (by society’s standards) if she chose it for herself, was proud of herself and didn’t want to be told to take it off? I mean, that’s annoying, and I honestly don’t want to rain on her personal independence day parade.

WHY would I care if she wants to wear her hair up in a ponytail, down in her face, in a braid, with a headband or definitely NOT with a headband, etc.? If she’s happy and comfortable with her hair—I should be too.

WHY do I care about rushing out the door to the library if she doesn’t want to go and she would rather stay home and paint? We can just go to the library another day when she’s in the mood for it.

WHY do I want to demand that she explain to me what’s wrong or why she is upset, when I should be respecting her space and allowing her to feel her emotions? She will come to me when she’s ready and I need to trust that.

WHY do I care that the puzzle pieces are all not fitting properly because some are misplaced? If it is not bothering her and she’s having a grand ol’ time―I better keep my trap shut.

WHY would I care if her socks don’t match? Like, seriously, I have gotten myself sort of worked up about this which is completely ridiculous. Socks should be a non-issue.

The thing is—my daughter is not my project.

The thing is―my daughter is not my prize to show off.

The thing is—my daughter is not my property.

The thing is—my daughter is not me. She is her own person.

What I’m learning, as a still relatively new mother, is that I shouldn’t be caring about superficial stuff. I should be working on letting the things go that don’t really matter.

Because, my daughter is growing right before my eyes, and I don’t want to be teaching her that matching clothes is what life is about.

What I DO want to be teaching her are lessons like—

Doing the right thing is hard, but it always feels better than doing what you know is wrong.

Always speak up for those who can’t.

If someone is playing by themselves at school, ask if they’d like to join you.

Kindness matters. Treat everyone around you with respect.

Open your heart and let others in—don’t be afraid.

Work hard. Believe in what you can do. Practice the things you want to be better at.

Don’t change who you are because what the world tells you is “normal” or “beautiful”—be true to you you are. Be unapologetic about it.

You are a beautiful person—inside, outside, in your heart and soul—you have what it takes to make this world a better place.

And there is only one you. No one else can be a better version of you because you are one-of-a-kind, as we all are. Don’t shy away from what makes you unique. Embrace it. Get comfortable with it.

And don’t let anyone rain on your independence parade, baby. Not even me.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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