Turns out there's more to style than matching your socks to your shirt.
My daughter Lizzie, who happens to have autism, has always had her own sense of style. From a very early age she showed strong opinions about what she wanted to wear. When it was hot, she dressed in layers. When it was cold, she dressed in short sleeves. She put plaids with polka dots and red with pink.
When I first found out I was pregnant with a girl, I went overboard with the clothes. During my pregnancy, I bought adorable outfits with matching everything—matching socks, matching shoes, matching bonnets, matching bows. Before she was even born, she had a closet full of enough pink and purple to last her through the first two years of her life. I loved opening that closet and sifting through the clothes, while dreaming up fun activities she and I would do together.
By the time she started kindergarten, she began to fight whatever I had planned for her to wear. She would throw the clothes down on the ground, and then throw herself on the ground in adamant protest. "Maybe she doesn't understand," I thought, "I just need to teach her the art of matching." I tried pairing all her outfits together in her closet—matching shirt, skirt and socks all on the same hanger. I made a special dressing area for her and hung each day's outfit by the mirror for her so she could easily put on her own clothes each morning.
But every morning, she would go back into her closet and play a game of mix and match. Two differently colored socks. Button-down shirts with sweatpants. Her style, her way. By this time, Lizzie was showing signs that she would have a different path to "fitting in" socially, and I worried her clothing choices would make her stand out even more.
So for this reason, I was more excited than any mom about "Wacky Dress Day" at school. This day was made for her! Finally, she would fit in and look like the rest of the kids as she walked to school and up and down the halls. I waited in anticipation to see what she would come up with, and hoped today would be one of her wildest, wackiest style days.
When she walked out of her room, my jaw dropped. She had put together a perfectly matching outfit from head to toe!
After dropping her off at school in her matching outfit, I stood chatting with some of the other moms. I shared how this Wacky Dress Day seemed like it was tailor-made for Lizzie, but she totally ignored it. All I wanted was for her to fit in.
One of the other moms politely suggested, "Well, maybe she isn't being difficult or ignoring the day. Maybe what we think is matching is actually wacky to her and vice versa." This was a light bulb moment for me.
Doing things differently is not wrong. Thinking differently is not wrong. The way she was dressing had nothing to do with me at all. She was expressing herself in her own way… in a way that made her feel beautiful. And who was I to keep her from being true to herself? She didn't need to fit in, because she was born to shine.
I began to expand this view to other areas of her life, trying to understand the intention behind her every action. She is different and beautiful and smart just as she is. And not only that, but if we slow down to really listen, her different view can expand and complement our "typical" thinking in ways that will challenge and change our world.After that day, we let Lizzie be Lizzie, and we celebrated her unique style. We even encouraged her offbeat clothing choices. She shines brightly because she is celebrated and loved exactly as she is.
Clothes and dress-up pieces that let your child's light shine
This beautiful silver crown is made to last and fits any child prince or princess. It has an elastic strap for a secure fit, and is adorned with sparkling silver jewels.
Inspired by the artist who's synonymous with bold, beautiful self expression, this super-soft tee for boys and girls bears an appliqued likeness of Frida Kahlo made from 100% recycled felts.
Made to last and designed to be worn well beyond Halloween, this detailed dragon cloak lets your child slip into a powerful identity of their own imagination.
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