Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week 31: Kids in Control

I have dressed my children almost every day for over 11 years.  And I remind them to do their chores, to brush their teeth, to wash their faces, to make their beds, to practice dance/riding exercises/soccer drills/piano/etc.  As though that weren't enough, in addition to all of the general bossiness that comes along with being a parent, my children are also homeschooled. 

In summary, my children receive my well-intentioned input nearly 24/7.  Poor kids.

I read an article on Babble a couple of months ago about a mom who had her young son pick out her clothes every day for a week...complete with mismatched shoes and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt.  My first reaction was, "This is so cute, I wish I had thought of doing that with my kids when they were younger." 

But if I'm being truthful, deep down, I think I was a bit relieved I thought the time had passed because, well, who wants to walk around feeling self-conscience?  

Hair, clothing and accessories have always been important to me.  They have never been as important as faith and family, but they have been highly-ranked for as long as I can remember.  Even in my childhood when money was tight and a portion of my clothing was shopped for at Goodwill, I managed to put some killer outfits together thanks to the lessons I learned from my stylish grandma and the love of classics I inherited from my mom. 

After having the Babble article percolate in my mind for a month or so I pitched the idea to my children as we ran errands for Week 29's activity.  I explained that I'd like to do something nice for them...to hand over some control.  I told them that each of them would have two days to plan my outfits, hair, jewelry and shoes and in addition, plan an activity for us to do during the day.  

The rules I laid out for myself were: I could tell NO ONE about this "experiment" until it was over and I had to make eye contact, smile, and interact with strangers wherever we went.  The latter certainly isn't out of the scope of everyday activity for me, but seeing as I had no clue what I'd be wearing for the next six days, I wanted to make the interactions a verbal requirement to hold myself to.

The kids LOVED the idea and were eager to begin making their selections.  I assume you, the reader, feel similar anticipation regarding the viewing of their selections, so, without further ado...

Day 1 - My 6 year old daughter was thrilled to have the first day!  She selected the shirt because it had birds on it, the pants because they were green (her favorite color), the shoes because they were "shiny and look like cheetahs" and a small braid framing each side of my face.  I wore this fun outfit on a walk to our favorite local custard stand where we got a few scoops with fun toppings.  On the way home we stopped at a playground. I noticed one woman take in my shoes and silently judge my selection while we waited for our custard.  When she looked up I smiled and said, "Hello, how are you?  Isn't it a beautiful day?"  She smiled awkwardly, said yes, and walked away. 

Day 2 - My 8 year old daughter was in control on day two.  Without any hesitation she picked out my silk-patched jeans (she has similar jeans and loves that we can match) and then a navy shirt with pick embroidery "to match the pink in the patches."  The shoes were chosen because they were colorful and my hair was instructed to go into a French braid (she's been obsessed since learning how to craft them last month).  Her planned activity was a bike ride to a local ice cream parlor for cones (are you seeing a dairy treat theme yet?) that we ate outside in the sun.

Day 3 - My 11 year old son, a huge Green Bay Packers fan, picked out my outfit and our outing on day three.  He made a beeline for my green and gold shirt and paired it with some teal chinos and moccasins.  I never would have put these pieces together, but I have to say I really dig it and just might wear this ensemble again.  My son wanted my hair "down and plain" for the day and instructed me to put it behind my shoulders for the picture "to really show the shirt."  We visited a local coffee shop for their baked Irish oatmeal (one of his favorite meals) for his outing which we ate outside. A man smiled back at me and told me he liked my moccasins and concluded with "Go Pack Go!" 

Day 4 - My youngest was back in the driver's seat for day four.  Later in the day, when I told my husband I was running out in my carefully-crafted outfit he asked, "Are you going to the grocery store or to the circus?"  My favorite 6 year old picked out gray wool trousers with a small plaid comprised of burgundy and cobalt blue and to compliment them she chose a turquoise shirt, bright orange belt, cross necklace and black high heels...and a turquoise ribbon to tie in a bow around my ponytail.  When she saw it all put together she gasped and said, "You look so pretty!"  Tears formed in my eyes as I smiled back and hugged her.  We went to Dairy Queen for cones dipped in a hard cherry coating and while I may have felt uncomfortable in this outfit otherwise, my daughter's loving words stayed with me and I thought of them every time I caught my reflection in a mirror or window.  And not a single person gave me an odd look the entire day.  Well, except my husband.  (:

Day 5 - My oldest daughter picked out my patched jeans again for day five and the same "colorful shoes," but this time she paired them with a "matching" colorful belt and maroon shirt.  She wanted my hair in a loose braid down my back "like I wear to Irish dance" she explained.  Her planned activity was a trip to a different local coffee shop for their monster cookies, which my kids go gaga for.  "Can we each get our own?" she asked.  "You're in charge," I said, even though the cookies are roughly the size of their heads.  We obviously ordered four cookies.  And enjoyed every bite.

Day 6 - For our final day my son picked out "just your normal jeans" and a gold-striped shirt that he said he thinks I "look nice in."  He picked out some coordinating taupe flats and instructed me to wear my hair down.  He also asked me to change from the cross necklace I had been instructed to wear the previous two days to my Tali Gillette mama necklace that has rarely left my neck since his baby fingers fit into the center.  Everyone cheered when he said we were heading to local caramel apple boutique for his activity.  We even saved a slice for daddy!  

So, what did we gain through this activity, outside of satisfying our sweet teeth? Quite a bit, actually:
  1. My children greatly enjoyed having control over their day and took pride in the selections they made.
  2. People you meet on the street don't really notice what you're wearing...but they do notice when you smile and engage in conversation.  
  3. My daughters (girls) prefer my hair back and my son and husband (boys) prefer my hair down.  I don't think this is a limited preference to only the males and females in my family.
  4. Children are not in a hurry to get places...the means of transportation to a destination is much more important that the timeliness of arriving there.  They chose to walk or bike almost everywhere we went.  Note to self: I need to slow down and enjoy the ride.
  5. Apparently my children don't appreciate my "plain jeans" as much as I like wearing them.
  6. Relinquishing control is healthy and feels good.  Waking up without any decisions to make over my appearance was very freeing.  
  7. My children have inherited my mom and grandmas' impressive sense of style. 
  8. Kind and encouraging words have the power to make you feel pretty and turn your day around.  Spread kindness. 
When tucking my children into bed on day six my daughters asked if they could dress me again in summer "so we can put you in skirts and dresses."  My son quickly added that mini-golfing will be one of his activities. 

I now have another reason to look forward to summer!

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.” - Audrey Hepburn

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