As soon as my boy was able to communicate his wants he clearly let me know he was only going to wear what HE wanted WHEN HE WANTED. His preferences sway towards the most comfortable and familiar item possible so forget belts, hats, vests, collard shirts, slacks and ANY shoe that wasn’t a worn in sneaker. Forget sweaters, jackets and jeans!
What kid doesn’t like to wear jeans??
The biggest struggle was getting him to wear appropriate clothing for the occasion.
I tried EVERYTHING to get him to wear specific items. Whether it was rainy and cold, a wedding, graduation, picture day or a specific themed event (no superhero capes for him), he would refuse to dress the part unless he was “comfortable.”
I begged, I bribed, I threatened but nothing worked.
On the rare instance that he would wear the clothes I picked (after much fighting and negotiating), he would be incredibly cranky all day complaining about how uncomfortable he was over and over. This = Sour Day.
I was frustrated that my son never looked “good” or that he wasn’t dressed for what the situation called for. He never matched! He always had the “I just came back from the gym” look…OH, THE HORROR (sarcasm in retrospect).
I was that mom with the kid at a “Quinceañera” wearing YMCA gym shorts and a “Minions” t-shirt with old worn out sneakers. All the other boys were in trousers and even suits.
My family is from Mexico and they in particular are used to dressing up for big occasions, special holidays and to go to the supermarket. The voiced complaints mainly came from them about him not being dressed right and looking “raggedy” (although I got a couple side eyes with “umm, is that what he’s wearing” and “did you bring clothes from him to change into?” from non-family members as well).
It was a constant fight with my otherwise calm and sweet kid; there were tears from both sides with screaming and fighting. I even worried he had a mental condition but then he was perfectly normal with everything else.
I was exhausted. One day I just…stopped fighting. It was more of it all wearing me down than me trying a different tactic but I did and just “Let It Go.”
I let him pick whatever he wanted to wear whenever he wanted to wear it.
I only set the following rules:
- He must be clean (enough)
- His clothes must be clean (definitely underwear, socks and maybe shirts…pants and shoes not so much)
- His clothes and shoes must fit him (they can’t be so tight they cut into his skin…yes this was a thing)
- He must follow the clothing rules set by the establishment we would be visiting (closed toed shoes at daycare, swimming trunks in the pool, sneakers at the gym)
I even stopped fighting him to wear weather appropriate clothing. If he didn’t put on a jacket when it was cold out then it was up to him to decide he would suffer. (He quickly learned that lesson though.)
Soon after I just stopped caring about what he was wearing our relationship changed in a dramatically positive way. Mornings were a heck of a lot easier to get through. We were laughing together much more. He was happier and more willing to cooperate. I was too, and this allowed for more quality time and closeness.
I thought long and hard about the situation and realized that I had been having trouble with the way he looked because I felt that it was a reflection on my parenting. I thought I was being judged and that was the main reason for my distress. I worried that I looked like a bad mom that either didn’t care about what her son looked like, or didn’t have the means to provide proper clothing.
What spurred my need to fight with him about his clothes was external and related to what others thought about me. I didn’t think about what a great job I WAS doing and that if anyone was going to judge me on that basis alone they weren’t worth my energy. All I had thought about before was “Oh no, I look like a bad mom.”
I consider myself a strong and assertive woman. I have always done what I felt was best for me, regardless of what other people thought (even my family) yet I caught myself fighting with my child over something that wasn’t truly important to me. I was fighting to gain positive judgment from others at the detriment of my son.
Yes, I would have preferred that he let me dress him in stylish and occasion appropriate clothing but the need for ME to see him dressed that way wasn’t stronger than the need for PEACE, or for him to be HAPPY. Now, if my child today allowed me to dress him up how I chose, I would. However, I don’t care badly enough to fight him about it. I prefer to let him go out in pajamas all day, wear high water pants and clothes that are a bit small or worn out. This = Happy Day.
He has been a much happier child since and as he has gotten older he has upgraded his wardrobe choices just a little bit. He has expanded to wearing three pairs of shoes (ok, two of them are sandals but they are options!).
So for all you momma’s out there…next time you are constantly fighting with your young child about their clothing, or something similar think about this: Do you really care about that or is it that you’re worried about what people think?
Unless we are arguing over our child’s safety, education and health…it’s probably not important enough to win the fight or try to force our children to obey. They might be young and small but they are individuals with their own spirit and desires. I have seen too many moms stress over various things in general that in reality are more about pleasing and impressing others than about what they really want. Most of the time we don’t even realize it and are making ourselves sick over it.
Stop making yourself sick and instead celebrate your spirited and strong willed child. At the least, remember: This too shall pass and high water pants are now in.