There was a time before I had children, or more than 2 anyway, that I looked upon a parent’s choice of clothing for their child as a strict judgment upon the parent themselves.  For the love of Pete, why is your daughter in a leotard and snow boots in the grocery store? Why does nothing your child has on match?  That dress up dress is a dress up dress and therefore belongs within a 20 yard radius of the toy box.

This coming from a woman who as a child broke all of the assumed rules on multiple occasions. I have no explanation.

Oh, yes, I was a harsh judge and an even harsher rule maker.  MY kids shall never . . . !

And then I had a few and remembered the wonder of imagination.  Who am I kidding?  Imagination or no, I just wanted ease and no arguments.  Pants AND shoes?  Winning combination! It looks like you got dressed in the dark because you DID, before I was up and you didn’t ask for help? You, my child, are a genius. Mama loves sleep.

To the mother’s, the parents, I derided in the past, I apologize.  You are the true geniuses.  If a child wishes to wear her princess dress with cowboy boots and you don’t have to fight about it – Glory be! Underwear are INSIDE the pants? Nothing but victory.

At a wedding we shot in December, a small guest wore her Belle dress and princess shoes.  The dress was sleeveless and not appropriate to the season and the color was less a golden yellow and more, hmm, dishwater blond. The shoes had clearly been sparkly once though the scuffs and bare toes showed more love than shine and I questioned their fit.  But the wearer?  She bounced and beamed, clearly feeling beautiful AND comfortable.  When was the last time I could say both about myself? The bride gushed over her attire, announcing they were both princesses and asked the little girl to stand right next to her for a picture.  I’m sure that little one will never forget it.

And to the mom, I smiled extra big, hoping she got the message.  “Carry on, rock star.  Today you did the right thing and it is making your daughter into a woman who knows herself.  It will pass too quickly, this dressing up stage.  Good on ya for just letting it ride.”

I tucked it away as a reminder to myself to fret less.  To really NOT care about what others might think or how they might judge.  They don’t know, or they have forgotten, the joy that comes in a cape, some jammy pants or a stained princess dress.  Hopefully someday they’ll know or remember.  Meanwhile, my kids will remember their self-expression matters even if they don’t always remember their shoes.  And I can be okay with that.