July 10, 2018
Every summer, a few weeks before school started, my mom would take me to the store to pick out some new clothes. It was always a special time for me and I looked forward to it all summer. One summer, as usual, we went to pick out my back-to-school clothes. I was 10 years old and going through a “purple” phase…I loved everything purple…I dreamt of driving around in a purple car, and living in a purple house.(thank goodness that phase passed! lol) So that day I chose all of my clothes in some shade of purple. I was beyond excited! When we got home, my grandmother was waiting to see what we had picked out. As I began pulling out purple garment after purple garment my grandmother stared in disbelief. She pulled my mother aside to ask her why she let me chose only purple clothes! My mom looked confused and responded…”because she liked it”.
It’s interesting what you remember as an adult looking back at your childhood. For some reason that day is a very vivid memory. Today I understand why. That day, I made choices and my opinion mattered. I felt respected.
As a parent, it is challenging at times to allow a child to pick and choose what they want to wear, what they want to do, etc. Often it is tempting to gently encourage something else to wear or perhaps hint that there may be a better choice. Then you see the child that walks through the halls of the grocery store in costume and you smile, because you know they dressed themselves and they are happy! So the next time your child doesn’t match or chooses a style that is just not what you like, take a step back. Does it really matter? As long as it in not inappropriate for the occasion, then just let it be. Allow your child to express his/her individuality and enjoy watching them evolve.
Life is about finding joy and happiness in the little things. Encourage your child to make choices (even if you don’t agree with them). By making choices, their enthusiasm and confidence will grow. Even small children have opinions so take the time to listen. Help your child find who THEY want to be, not who YOU want them to be.
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.