So when a public charter school was opening in a nearby city, one of the most appealing draws was their uniform requirements. Of course, there were many other good qualities that convinced my husband and me to enroll our son. But as we prepared for him to start third grade by shopping for his clothes and supplies, I was looking forward to a generic school wardrobe!
Believe it or not, even with school clothes that are all the same style and colors (assorted burgundy, navy, khaki, & white), he still was able to pick a few favorites, and three years later, we still struggle with the same dilemma on an ongoing basis.
All clothes are clean and put away by the time the week starts, and he picks out his favorite outfit each Monday. Tuesdays are usually ok too, because he's still got some backup. But by Wednesday, he's ready to grab his favorites out of the laundry instead of his drawers and closet. Now, trust me, this isn't for a lack of clothes to wear. His drawers are overflowing! When we shop, he picks out his own clothes.
When he gets clothing for Christmas or birthdays, he always says he likes them and they fit, before tags are removed. But when it comes time to get dressed for school, he wants to leave 90% of them in the drawers or closet and only wear the few items that are getting so worn out that they should be thrown out.
So, what's the best plan of attack here? Well, I can take a hard stand and pick his clothes for him. I could let him pick his own clothes, but stick to the once-a-week rule. Or should I just give in, and let him wear what he wants? Who cares if the other moms think he only owns two shirts and two pairs of pants! And if his teacher needs to sew his clothes together during recess because they start falling apart, oh well!
If you are reading this because you have a similar struggle emerging in your household, and you are looking for the magic solution, I apologize - but you won't find it here. I haven't figured this one out yet. The one thing I have figured out is that this is part of an ongoing plot by my son to show me that he's growing up. He's trying to prove to me that he is his own person, capable of making his own decisions. After all, I'm not the one wearing these clothes. He's going to be eleven years old this spring, and wants to know desperately when I'm going to give him the freedoms and responsibilities that he's grasping for.
If I could, I would never give in. Why can't he stay my baby forever? They shouldn't need to grow up, right? They can do their chores, spend 8 hours a day in school and come home to do more homework, take the dog out, help take care of their siblings, clean up after themselves, and know their limits - it's ok to expect all that out of them, but they don't really need to grow up..... WRONG!!
When we are piling these responsibilities and expectations on our children, we need to also let go of our hold on them a little bit at a time. Let them make some of their own decisions. Guide them in their choices, point them in the right directions, lay the groundwork for common sense - but let them become their own person as they grow.
If we do our job as a parent right, they will make us proud and we won't regret that they are growing up right before our eyes. Our babies can't stay babies forever.