Parenting | Metamorphosis
It may be that I just have terrible recall, or perhaps I’m suppressing some horrific memory of two brothers obsessed with wedgies. I don’t know. What I do know is that I just don’t remember being five. I don’t really remember being eight and in second grade. (Although I do have clear memories of my 2nd grade teacher who was overly thin, pinched and unkind. She punished me for reading ahead in the reading book!)
But my oldest is ten “and a half!” She’s in 4th grade. Boy, do I remember ten [and a half]. I remember developing legs that didn’t look like the beanpoles I’d possessed all through the early grades. My belly had begun to gently curve, and Holy WOW, the mortification of those odd bumps in the chest area. But most of all, I remember the agony of clothes shopping, and of getting dressed in the morning. Until that very year, I don’t think I spent any time at all thinking about outfits for school, or what shoes might ‘go’ with which jeans.
All of the sudden, I found myself in crisis about the way I was supposed to look, and wondering if I would somehow be different than all the rest of the kids. Somehow I had perceived there was such a thing as ‘style’ but I had absolutely no clue as to what that was or how one achieved it.
These days, we’re watching my oldest start down this time-honored path, and as her mother it doesn’t feel any easier the second time around. These are not the tantrums of preschool: “nooooooo I wanna have this pink shirt with a picture, not THAT pink shirt with the picture!” and they’re not the costume dramas of third grade. This is a very junior version of an existential crisis, and she genuinely believes that it may only be solved through clothes.
My husband shared a sweet moment with her upstairs the other day. He was working from home, and looked up from his laptop to a fully clothed daughter asking his opinion of her outfit. He scanned the ensemble and pronounced it great, but being the sweet dad he is, he made particular effort to note how well the patterns blended, and that the colors seemed ‘cool’ together. She sighed, disappeared around the corner, and returned in entirely different clothes. “What the heck?!?!” he spluttered, and she sighed. “Daddy,” she said, “I just think that outfit was too teenager-y. It just wasn’t really appropriate for Girl Scouts.”
I want to reassure myself that this is so normal. So absolutely a part of starting down that long road of adolescence where the identity crises will be so much more profound than ‘this t-shirt or that one’. And yet the over-thinker in me wants to sit her down and have serious talks about how our identity never is or never will be what we wear, or what brands adorn our gear. About how “pretty” is no descriptor that I want her to aspire to, knowing full-well that there will be times when it’s the only thing she aspires to.
All I can do is kiss her nightly, whispering “I am so proud of your lovely heart.” All I can do is live in my uniform of boots and jeans and hope she sees that her dad’s in love with me for the beautiful crazy things that run through my head, and not for my blown-dry hair. All I can do is reign in my sighs when she wears that awful purple shirt with the stars and a cut-out back and know that eventually she will arrive at who she is. She will arrive at Who She Is somehow knowing what combination of threads and leather might reflect that Who.
In the meantime, I just have to buckle in for the ride.