Ellie got a slime and squishie t-shirt for her birthday.
When Ellie opened it, she screamed and began planning her outfit for school on Monday.
I’m not sure how my mom found it besides just typing Ellie’s two favorite things into an Amazon search bar and the shirt popped up. She clicked “buy” immediately. That shirt was made for my daughter.
Slime and squishie shirt with pink leggings?
Slime and squishie shirt with Pusheen scarf and Harry Potter earrings?
Slime and squishie shirt with jeans and tall boots?
The possibilities were endless.
Monday came and she wore that shirt with pride. She might have carried a squishie or two as an accessory. She needed proof she was all in on this slime and squishie craze.
Does your kid love slime and squishies right now? Is it as confusing for you as it is for me? Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch a slime video on Instagram. I think it’s calming and soothing, and I can’t pass one up if it shows up in my feed. But I don’t have the desire to spend all my money and time with slime and squishies. (Just a warning: Ellie had a slime birthday party last month and I’m sharing pictures and slime recipes next week. So maybe I’m as invested as my kid. Who knows.)
Back to the shirt: She loved it. She wore it to school on Monday.
By Thursday, it ended up in her dresser drawer again so she pulled it out to wear it. (I’m a machine when it comes to laundry. I’m not bragging. It’s a sickness. Please help.)
When I saw she wanted to wear it again a few days after she first wore it, I told her she needed to pick something else to wear.
Why? she asked.
Because you already wore it this week. Find something else to wear.
But I love this shirt, she said. I want to wear it again!
As we’re going back in forth, I’m processing through why I don’t want her to wear it again. Why I’m telling her no. Why I want my kid who got a new shirt she loves to not wear it.
I can recall with crystal clarity tracking my daily outfits in high school. In my green journal, I’d list the date and what I wore to school that day. It would have been social suicide to wear the same outfit too close together. It implied you didn’t have an overflowing closet of cool clothes to wear. It implied you didn’t have lots of money. It implied you weren’t worthy enough to be at the cool table, with the cool kids, invited to the cool parties.
I wish I was exaggerating with this memory, but I’m not. Even as someone who wore track pants (we called them windbreakers in the 90s, thank you very much) and hoodies to school every day, I made sure I didn’t wear the same gray hoodie or pair of side-zip pants too often.
I didn’t want people to think I was poor.
It was an actual thing we talked about at school.
The weird thing was we weren’t poor. I had plenty of clothes, plenty of food, plenty of resources, plenty of parent attention even though I didn’t want it.
But I didn’t want to seem poor by wearing my clothes too close together. I was afraid of what it would imply.
And suddenly, twenty years later, I’m standing in the hallway of my larger-than-necessary house, trying to convince my daughter of the same horrible storyline I bought into.
What was I supposed to say? Don’t wear that shirt you love because I don’t want people at your school to think we’re poor? Don’t wear that new shirt you’re excited about because what if someone remembers you wore it on Monday?
What is wrong with me?
I don’t normally care at all what people think. Sometimes I have to remind myself to ask what other people think; it never crosses my mind to worry about what others think about my story, my clothes, my house.
What is happening right now then?
Oh, wait, is this what gross pride feels like?
All of this went through my mind in a few seconds as I waded through my reasons, trying to find an answer for Ellie’s why. Why couldn’t she wear her favorite shirt again?
Because your mom is too full of pride and sin, that’s why.
You know, wear the shirt, I said quickly. What earrings do you think would look good with it?
Inside my head I wanted to scream wear it every day! Wear it until it falls apart! Wear it until you outgrow it and then keep wearing it anyway!
I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed I was going to train my daughter to not wear the clothes she wanted to because of how it might look to someone else. Ashamed I was going to take away some of her joy because she wore that shirt a few days ago.
Last night at bedtime, Ellie was arguing with me about something as Harper stood in the doorway listening.
Can you just go to bed and stop arguing with me about everything? I asked exasperated.
Sorry, she said in a not-sorry-tone.
Don’t say sorry for things you’re not actually sorry about, I said to her.
Okay, you’re right, I’m not sorry about arguing with you, she said.
I rolled my eyes, laughed out of exhaustion, kissed her good night, told her I loved her, and shut the light out.
I wouldn’t say I’m thankful for a demanding, questioning daughter, but she is pushing me to think about my choices, my words, my ways of doing things whether I want her to or not. In a way, I’m arguing with myself. She’s saying the things out loud I’d say in my head after a conversation. She’s asking questions I’d talk through with my counselor to peel back layers of because I said so to what lies underneath.
Because I said so is still an acceptable answer for my children sometimes. I’m not giving that parenting card up. Don’t you worry about that.
But I like the pushing for answers. I like the asking why when something I do doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I just need to explain things so she learns. And sometimes she needs to ask why so I learn instead.
*DISCLOSURE: affiliate links used
*Photography by Huff Photography