Fit in? Or be unique?

My daughter will be five next month. 

Already I see myself in her, not just in her appearance, but in her individuality and stubborness.  While we’re at home together, I try not to hinder her wild creativity in any respect. 

She wears six barrettes in her hair, clomps around in high heels wearing nothing but her underwear and one sock.  She mixes her paint colors until her pictures are mostly brown.  Sparkles cover her body head to toe instead of her artwork.  She writes stories about Spiderman saving Princess Brianna from a pirate ship in Madagascar where Zaboomafoo lives.  It’s all good.

Now that she’s in school, I worry her rather unusual fashion sense will see her ostracized from her group of friends. 

So, how do I walk the fine line of protecting her feelings against cruel kids without hindering her individuality?  How do I explain that green leggings, a pink and black leopard print skirt and a red paisley shirt don’t match in most people’s eyes? 

Or should I? 

Part of me says yes, and part of me says no. 

I want her to be the bright, creative, unique individual she is, but I also know what it’s like to go to school in clothes that didn’t fit in with the others in my group.  I grew up on a farm and didn’t know anything about fashion until I was an adult, as those sorts of things weren’t important in my life back then.  It still hurt when those little jabs came.  “Nice pants.  Did you get dressed in the dark?  Did your grandmother lend you her clothes?” 

At least it helped me sort out who my true friends were.  I can look at it that way now, but as a kid it devestated me.

The thought of my daughter coming home from school in tears because someone made fun of her outfit makes my heart hurt.  She’s confident enough she might be okay and stand up to anyone who made fun of her, but then again, she might not.  This morning we made a compromise after some ranting and raving about the red flowered tights and pink t-shirt she was determined to wear to school. 

I asked her to pick out the one piece of clothing she absolutely had to wear – which happened to be a shirt.   Then I offered her some options that matched:  a pair of jeans, a white skirt and leggings and a pair of yoga pants, all of which she poo-pooed.  Eventually she chose the jeans and went off to school satisfied with her outfit – mismatched socks and all, but it took some serious negotiating before she would agree to something reasonable.

Did I do the right thing?  Who knows.

I know it will only get worse as she gets older.  Yeah, not looking forward to that.  Here’s hoping her unusual style begins a new trend.

What would you do?

17 thoughts on “Fit in? Or be unique?

  1. There’s a difference, I think, between looking ‘individual’, and just downright not looking okay. Most of the time, my daughters fashion sense (or lack of) falls into the latter. All of her friends at school are wearing the latest fashion trends, and she’d rather wear jeans and lumberjack shirts.<<Those outfits I don't mind–it would be hypocritical of me to, when I used to dress more like a boy than girl myself through growing up. Maybe I'm a little to blame because I don't give two hoots about fashion/trends, I just wear what I like and if you don't like how I look then you can look away has always been my motto. But you're right, it is a lot easier to deal with as an adult. Until then, we can only help our kids to leave the house in an acceptable (not necesssarily conformed) fashion, and let them find themselves as they get older and their minds become even more stubborn. I don't disagree with what you did–a compromise may be the best way to go, I think, if only to save the heartache that taunting can bring. 🙂

    • You sound a lot like me. 🙂 I don’t care about fashion trends, like the lulu lemons and designer jeans and I don’t really want my daughter to care either. Just simple color matching would be enough, I think. 🙂

      • I recall my sister once saying to me (she does care about fashion and labelled clothing), well, don’t you look trendy lately, with all your ‘in’ clothes you’ve been wearing lately? What pushed you to follow the fashion. I said, I haven’t. I just happened to like the clothes, so I bought ’em to wear. Four months later, I was out of fashion again. Ha!

  2. I would’ve done the same. My daughter is 10 months old so I can dress her the way I want. Too bad I have no fashion sense. But I know someday she’ll do it her own way. She’s already asserting her independence. I just hope her style is better than mine.

  3. You should see the stuff my girls where. That sock with the high heels? That’s an added bonus. 🙂 They mix and match, blending paisley with stripes, checkers with polka dots, etc. I worry about the exact same thing because they just have their own style.
    Here’s the funny thing though … I watch my all-mixed-up girls go to school and THREE days later, I see all sorts of other kids doing the SAME! I swear the ones with the confidence to do it ON PURPOSE are the ones that will rise above the pettiness.
    It’s those of us that either didn’t realize or thought we were fine that feel the bite. <– this being me, too.
    But I look at my girls and I see confidence. Glaring confidence and trend SETTING.
    Let her be the one everyone aspires to be IF she tells you she's doing it on purpose. But if it's happenstance, then you can worry she'll feel the same as you. 😉 At the same time, you know what they say about learning … what happens by experience teaches a lot more than being told. Unfortunate, but true. 🙂

    • When Brie’s older, I’ll definitely step back and let her fly as she will, once she’s more aware of the way people are (and can be). For now I’ll guide her as much as she’ll allow – always with color explanations, etc. Hopefully we’ll find a happy medium.

  4. Alright. I have a moose of a boy and he’s going to be 17 this month. I think, that respect, it’s different than what girls go through. Guys don’t harp on other guys about clothing. When my son started school, we got him new outfits to wear. I let him pick which one he was wearing. The only time I didn’t allow him to pick was picture day. I controlled that because I was paying for the pics. :p

    Individuality isn’t a bad thing. What’s most important is having your child be confident in what she does. A sharp wit helps too. I was viciously attacked in school for hte way I dressed but I didn’t change. Not that I didn’t try but when I looked at myself in the mirror I thought… this isn’t me and I’ll be damned if I try to fit in just to be liked.

    The most important thing I told my son is it didn’t matter how many friends you had. If you had that one good friend that stuck by you through anything and you did the same for them, that’s all you’ll ever need in life.

    Make her strong like you, Joce, and she’ll be right as rain.

    • Ah, thanks! I know she’ll be just fine no matter what, it just seems to be my instinct to make her road as smooth as possible while I still can. 🙂

  5. Shelby is sooo much like this. At 10 she rarely wears mattching anything, she writes amazingly creative stories, wants to be a boy and never wears matching socks. Sometimes she gets picked on at school for being, as she calls it “Who I am” and others embrace it. She has a select group of good friends — the rest — she doesnt reall ycare if they like her or not. Her free spirit is what I love most about her. She is not afraid to say what she thinks, do what she wants, and say no when she doesnt. She is her own person, and at 10 has a better sense of self than I do at 41.

    I wouldnt have her any other way, matching socks and shoes or not.

  6. She sounds great, and definitely a lot like Brie. She’s always been head strong, and once she decides on something, she doesn’t back down. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Other times…not so much. 😀

  7. I have a different clothing problem with my four year old daughter, Chloe. She doesn’t like wearing any! I think she’d happily run around naked if I’d let her. Talk about free spirit.
    School uniforms make school mornings easy; no arguments. 🙂
    Sounds like you’re doing a great job with the compromise. Your little girl is lucky she has a mum who cares so much about doing the right thing. It’s not easy being a mum, is it?

    • Thanks! You’re very sweet. Running around naked must be a little girl thing, is it? Sheesh, she likes to be naked all summer long, and now she insists on sleeping that way, too.
      Nope, it’s not easy being a mom, but I’ve had no other title as rewarding. 🙂

  8. I don’t want to be a party pooper or anything, but I really think she needs to go to school in more than 6 barrettes, high heels, underwear, and one sock. I’m just saying, authorities might have something to say about that. Maybe you can encourage her to add a pink tutu and rainbow sweatshirt to her ensemble.

    Seriously though… do other five-year-olds notice when another kid is dressed funky? Seems more of an adult thing. Of course, kids hear other adults, then it becomes a kid thing too.

    Life is about experiences. As long as she’s not outrageous (lacking coverage), I think it’s okay to let her creative juices flow. A bit portion of school is becoming socialized into drones.

    • Good grief, I don’t let her go to school that way, nor would she want to. It’s more the colors and patterns she mixes in the name of her own persional fashion that worries me.

      And oh yeah, five year olds notice when someone’s dressed differently, and aren’t afraid to point it out. It started in daycare even before school – my daycare provider would mention it, though my daughter only got upset about it once.

      • haha I’m sorry… humor doesn’t always come out in straight text.

        Conformity versus diversity. If what the kids said upset her, I wonder if she’ll come to terms on her own about what is acceptable (according to the robots of the world) and what is not.

        Even if she’s not color coordinated, perhaps one day she’ll go to you and ask, “Mom… do you think this matches?”

  9. The violinist who is playing with us for Easter has an 8 year old daughter. The daughter has to sit in the front pew by herself during an hour plus church service. Surprisingly, she sits there without fidgeting. The mother remarks to me that sometimes it seems like she’s not paying attention and she wonders what she’s done wrong that her daughter is that way. Then she telsl me how she used to draw the iron part of the stained-glass windows really well. I just smiled at her and said to her: your daughter’s an artist. Just when you think they’re not paying attention, they prove you wrong.

    I think, in the end, the msot importnat gift we can give our children is the ability to spread their wings and fly.

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