Since she was old enough to make her own choices or even wanted a say in what she was wearing, my wife and I have allowed my daughter to wear pretty much whatever she wants wherever she’s going.
Certainly, we’re mindful about safety and comfort ("Watch out - those shoes give you blisters!"), but by and large, our daughter doesn’t match much. She’s never smocked or monogrammed or particularly dressed for a holiday or occasion.
She’s left the house with shirts on top of shirts, in masquerade princess dresses and Halloween costumes in summer. She’s worn two headbands at once and leg warmers on her arms. We’re quite certain other school parents - who make all of their children’s clothing decisions - look at us upon entering school each morning and wonder if we know what we’re doing.
Rest assured, we do.
Unless it is blatant or scandalous or dangerous, we will let our daughter dress as she chooses. Especially since she’s four.
She will get judged enough for her appearance later. There’s no way we're contributing to that now.
We want her to understand choice (and consequence). To learn that there is freedom and power in the ability to make decisions, but that decisions are not made in a vacuum.
So what’s a bracelet or 12 here? A Hello Kitty tattoo there? A combo of mismatching and clashing pants, skirts, shirts (both long and short sleeved), and a toboggan?
It’s nothing. It’s innocence before the stares and critiques of adolescence and media. It’s learning one’s identity and comfort. It’s understanding that there are boundaries and where exactly they’ve been set (and by whom). It’s designing your own life. It’s a start.
The world is big and at times it gets scary. Parts of it are mean. A lot of it is wonderful and beautiful and captivating. But my job is not to protect my daughter from the world. Rather, it’s to help her navigate it. To deal with it. To lean into it, to taste it, and to discover it. A Minnie Mouse dress and a set of galoshes are but one tool I have.
Let’s get dressed and start our day.