Recently, I presented Ittybit with a timely gift: A flouncy dress and matching tights. Timely because not only was it nearing her birthday but the laundry doesn't get a second thought, let alone a chance to suds up, when all the preceding weeks are filled with parties and other holiday merriment.
She didn’t remember that she'd picked it out last fall by tearing a picture from the Hanna Andersson catalogue and presenting it to me as a dress she would most definitely wear when she reached the ultimate milestone a three-year-old could reach: Turning Four.
There have been a lot of missteps on my part in the clothing department, I'm afraid. As she and her tastes "matured" to scoopnecks and soft pinks, I continued to buy purple things with turtlenecks and loud prints.
You see she has extremely particular taste in clothes. So particular, in fact, that it's hard for even the initiated to make successful purchases on her behalf.
She is partial to pants made of soft, jersey material. She likes them best if they have pockets. She also likes T-shirts made of brushed cotton. She won’t wear wool or pullover sweaters ever, and she's not a fan of jeans. Except on one day two weeks ago when she pulled on a pair of embroidered blue jeans, wore them all day and threw them in the trash at bath time.
Regardless of her stated preferences, however, the design, color or button-count could be a lets-get-dressed-by-ourselves deal-breaker on any given day.
"No stripes on the fourth Monday of August, but no solids if it snows," is pretty much how I've come to understand the selection process.
I used to pull my hair out trying to discern her preferences. I'd hunt and peck through her dresser drawers for things I’d know she'd wear, and then wash them the second she swapped them for pajamas. I started buying the favorites in multiples of four so I'd have a few days leeway.
And just when I think I'm catching on she throws me curveballs.
"Mother," she’ll tell me (she calls me that because she's decided she likes the way MOTHER sounds) "I don't want to wear what I don’t want to wear, but I want you to pick out something for me that I don’t want to wear. And I'll know it when I see it. Okay?"
See my dilemma?
A year ago, I would also have gladly given up a week's wages to get her to wear some kind of matching bit of designer fashion so I could pretend I was a skilled and talented shopper. So I could see myself as a hip mom whose child looks clean and impeccably clad at all times.
Instead she insisted on wearing stripes with dots of non-matching hues to her first day of school. She wore purple snow boots with a swimsuit and pajama bottoms to the museum. She wore a purple tutu with a red, three-button Henley t-shirt to the ballet.
And each time she insisted, I became that much less worried about how others perceived me. After all, it wasn't about me, now, was it?
So now, when she puts on the dress I bought at her bidding - a dress two sizes too large (thanks to my skin-flintyness and inability to translate European sizes) – her skepticism comes brimming up.
"Mother, I think it's too big."
"Well it's a little big, that's true, but it just has more room to grow and more room to flutter when you twirl."
"Ok ... but are you sure I'm four?"
"You are four, Ittybit. I can hardly believe it myself."