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Sartorial challenges for the toddler set.

2007-11-23 - 9:19 a.m.

What is with some people and their need to share their opinions about my child? Specifically, about her short hair and non-pastel clothes? Oh, I’m not talking about strangers that just refer to her as “he” when they see her. I totally understand that that’s an easy mistake to make and it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t always correct them either unless the question they ask requires a response with a pronoun – in which case I won’t lie or deliberately use the wrong one to refer to her – or unless it looks like we’ll be exchanging more than a cursory sentence or two.

It doesn’t happen often, particularly with strangers, and the opinion is usually just implied rather than stated. Let me give you two examples…
*at a restaurant*
Strange woman: Is he talking yet?
Me: Sort of. She knows quite a few words.
SW: Is it possible he just pointed to my purse and said bag?
Me: Oh yeah, completely possible. She definitely knows that word.
SW: Oh she! I couldn’t tell with that little butch haircut.

Okay, unlike Grommet’s clothes, the hair thing is actually beyond our control. Her hair just hasn’t grown in a lot yet. I keep the long tufts trimmed to try to keep it relatively one length, or at least non-haystack like, but it just hasn’t grown long. The bottom comes down to the top of her neck and if it would grow evenly, I’d let it get longer than that. But I’m not sure what to think of the term “butch haircut” as a descriptor. I don’t think it was meant badly, given that the woman was there with another woman who was obviously her partner. I’m betting it’s just a common word in their vocabulary. But I don’t really think it’s an entirely fair thing to say either, given that there’s not a lot of choice in Grommet’s hair style or length.

*at child-minding at the gym – conversation starts similarly with a “he” used, followed by a “she” response from me. For the record, Grommet was wearing a dark blue turtleneck and jeans.*
Stranger: Oh sorry!
Me: That’s okay, it’s the lack of pink clothes and the short hair.
Stranger: Does she have a big brother?
Me (with a puzzled, why would you ask that face): No.

The implication, of course, is that we’d never actually buy those clothes for a little girl.

There are a few reasons, in fact, that we dress Grommet the way we do. I’d say at least 75% of the influence is practical: she gets stains on most light-coloured clothes within a few wearings. This is particularly frustrating if it’s, in fact, the very first time I put something on her. She favours tomato-sauce covered foods. She eats a lot of Indian-style dishes at daycare. She’s learning to drink from a regular cup and, of course, spills juice on herself frequently. There are play-related items that get on her clothes, including pen ink when she can get her hands on one. And there is still the odd diaper-explosion incident at daycare, where she’s not using the potty like she does at home. All this is to say, pastels don’t work well on her. And, also on the practical side, if the Biscuit’s a boy he can probably wear about 80% of Grommet’s hand-me-down clothes. Plus, now that it’s colder I find it’s easy and fun to layer long-sleeved undershirts with t-shirts over top, even though it’s more typically a little-boy look: it gives a lot more use from her warmer-weather wardrobe.

For the other 25%, well there are two main things. One, I just like bright or dark colours and I think they look really good on her. Dark blue in particular makes her hair shine. And I have always loved the combination of red socks, camo pants, and a red shirt. Heck, I wear this combo myself, why wouldn’t I put it on her? The other is, I have to admit, I’m kind of rebelling. I know a lot of moms who treat their little girls like living dolls instead of children. They put cutesy but impractical clothes on them. I put Grommet in clothes I consider cute and some of them are even girly and a few of those are even pink, but I have never crammed her into anything I think she’d be uncomfortable in, just because it’s cute. Nothing can dig into her, or be scratchy, or not warm enough, lest it be banished from her wardrobe. I’ve never put a headband with a rosette on it on her head, or crammed her feet into tiny, stiff, shiny shoes when she couldn’t even crawl yet. And she always wore tights in the winter under her pants and never short lacey socks which expose tender flesh from ankles almost to knees where pants hike up to when babies are carried around, and which they usually take off anyway.

I have a friend with very strong opinions on the way I dress my daughter, and she’s always trying to convince me that I dress her fine… for a little boy, but she’s a girl and I “should” be dressing her in girl clothes. She won’t listen to all my reasons for why I dress Grommet in the clothes I do. My assertions that there’s nothing wrong with dressing girls in vibrant colours, and that at this age (22 months tomorrow!) children are almost unisex and they’re children first and boys and girls second, fall on deaf ears. I try to remind myself that she means well and that I just have to accept her, opinions and all, if I want to be friends with her (and don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely person and a very good friend, we’re just very different: she’s conservative, I’m more liberal; she’s religious – takes a lot of the bible literally in fact - and I’m, well, not really) but I have to tell you, it kind of bugs me a little. More importantly, I don’t feel I should have to defend myself so vigorously on such a minor subject; it’s not like we’re debating something that impacts Grommet’s health.

Of course, the fact that I just spent a long entry defending myself on this very topic may mean I’m a bit more sensitive about it than I though, eh wot?

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