Phases of Dressing Your Child

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My five-year-old son changes his outfit at least three times a day, and my three-year-old daughter recently started insisting that she wear a princess dress to the grocery store. Before I had my own kids, I was under the impression that I would have much more control over what clothes they wore. And then, reality hit. It turns out that getting out of the house with a well-dressed and clean child is much harder than I thought.  Through each stage of their development, it seems there is a new fashion war that I must fight.

But, Babies Are So Cute! 

This is the stage where you have complete control over what your child wears. Embrace it! Indulge in all of the cute outfits you want because your little one is not going to be able to voice his disproval.  The problem, however, is that you are usually too tired to care what your baby wears, or you don’t have any clean clothes to choose from.  When you do put your baby in a cute outfit, she will attempt to ruin it quickly in the form of spit up or blowouts.

What Accessories? 

It is hard to keep it all together when your child is young. Socks go missing, barrettes fall out of hair, and mittens never match.

One of my first wardrobe fails as a parent occurred on the top of Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, NY. My husband, nine-month-old son, and I drove to the top of the mountain to check out the views. As we exited the car, my husband asked, “Where are his socks? It’s cold up here.” I had no idea. I searched the car, but there was not a sock to be found.  I hadn’t even thought to bring my son shoes since he was only crawling.  I tried to tuck his chilled, little feet into my pockets as we speedily checked out the views.

Those Who Paint Themselves with Food and Play in Mudmessy la.jpg

When your child starts crawling, and feeding herself, and then toddling along, you will still cling loosely to a bit of control. But, the flowered leggings you thought were so adorable in the store soon have holes in the knees, and the yellow sweater you purchased for a trip to Grandma’s now has a strawberry stain on the collar.

You will end up spending too much money on an Easter dress. After taking some fabulous pictures of your daughter next to her Easter basket, you will immediately have to take off her dress because she gets too frustrated trying to crawl in it. The outfit is also completely impractical for exploring the muddy playground she spots in your sister-in-law’s backyard.

In the Nude 

 My son whole-heartedly embraced the idea that less is more. When he was two, I went to check on him in his crib and saw that he was completely nude – no pajamas, no diaper. Although he had peed all over his bedding, my husband and I laughed.

We were not laughing months later when he continued taking off his clothes wherever and whenever the mood struck. On play dates, while I was distracted with coffee and gossip with the other moms, I would look up to see my naked son pushing a truck across the floor.  Outside in our backyard, while I was attempting a quick outside diaper change for my daughter, he would quickly dispose of his clothes and streak across the green grass.

Since he was not ready to be potty trained, we needed to figure out a way to keep diapers and clothes on the boy. At night, we put on his pajamas so the zipper was in the back, but he soon discovered how to unzip it. We reverted back to onesies, but he quickly learned how to unsnap them. Finally, embracing the idea that duct tape fixes anything, we taped the sides of his diapers shut. Success!

I’ll Wear What I Want To!

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And then, suddenly, your children will start to have opinions about what they wear. I had naively assumed I would be able to select clothes for my kids all throughout their elementary years. But, at three, my son was adamant about what he would or would not wear.  Certain items of clothing immediately became off limits. Long sleeves and button shirts were the worst offenders. And, don’t even get me started on his love of character T-shirts.  For a bleak four month period, his Lightning McQueen T-shirt was all he wanted to wear.  I would often find him digging through the dirty laundry to unearth it.

Dressing becomes a battle. At 6:00 am, your resolve slips. So what if he will be getting his picture with the Easter Bunny today at daycare? He will look just fine in his snow boots, sweatpants, and a slightly dirty Lightning McQueen shirt.

My daughter views fashion quite differently than her brother. At almost-four, she is happiest in formal wear. Recently, I asked her to change into “comfy clothes” for an afternoon of movie watching.  Minutes later, she exited her room in her Christmas dress and princess tiara.  I smiled and then asked her why she didn’t change into something more comfortable. “This is comfy, Mom!” she replied indignantly.

 ***

Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. I can try to make my children wear what I want them to wear, but that usually results in tears, tantrums, and general unhappiness. Sometimes it is worth it, but usually it is not.  I still hold my ground for school pictures and holidays, but on a day-to-day basis they often end up wearing what they want.

So, if you see me in the store and question why my son is wearing his snow boots with shorts and why my daughter is wearing ugly, brown sweatpants that are two inches too short, don’t judge. Just know that I have fought the battle, but they have won.

 

Here are some things I learned along the way to help the fashion war at my house. Anyone have some good tips to add?

8 Tips That Helped Me Decrease Dressing Drama

      1. Pick out outfits the night before and let your child have a say in at least part of it.
      2. “Package” outfits in a drawer. Wrap pants around a matching shirt and tell your child they can’t be separated.
      3. Pick out all complete outfits on Sunday. There are plenty of storage ideas on Pinterest, but I love the ones that use a 6-shelf hanging laundry organizer to separate the clothes. These can be found rather cheaply at Target or Walmart.
      4. Put grubby play clothes out of reach, so your child doesn’t insist on wearing them at inappropriate times. I put them up high on a shelf in the closet.
      5. Take it off! My children often still eat shirtless. I don’t have time for stains and they are super messy!
      6. Layer. Sometimes this is all that works for my son who refuses to wear long sleeves. I put short sleeve shirts on top of long sleeves. If he won’t tolerate that, I put a short sleeve shirt underneath the long one and tell him he must wear long sleeves out of the house. By the time we get to school, my son will often forget he is unhappy in long sleeves. If he doesn’t forget and takes it off, at least he has the long sleeve one if he gets cold.
      7. Get in a habit of having the kids dress before they do anything – no cartoons and no food until they are dressed.
      8. Have a relaxed philosophy about dressy clothes. So what if my daughter wants to wear her fancy Christmas dress to watch a movie and eat popcorn? It won’t fit her next year anyway.
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