"Your hair looks terrible!"
Yeah, I said it.
My oldest daughter comes down once again with her hair in a matted mess and not a care in the world. Either that, or she hates us all and brushing her hair. I can't tell with these pre-teen hormones. She's also sporting a maxi dress with tennis shoes. I tell her that the normal social convention is to wear a sandal of some sort with a maxi. She, hard core, stares me down and retorts, "Mom! I'm not a fashionista! And I don't care!"
Like I'm a "fashionista"? Ha!
I reply, "OK, cool, whatever."
That's the least of my worries. As long as everything is covered and we are following a general dress code, I don't care. The 6-year-old twins went to orientation dressed as Wonder Woman. I just felt it was my job to inform her of the generally accepted fashion do's and don'ts.
Here's the thing though: I'm not sure that is my job. Upon further reflection, I feel the more I criticize her on the little things, the less heard I fear I become. I mean when I think about the people I want to talk to or ask the opinion of, they are not the judgmental type and that's what unnecessary criticism is - judgement.
So I take a step back and I look for something to compliment. One of my friends has two boys and is so laid back about what they wear. But then, how hard is it to mess up shorts and a t-shirt? Side note: Boys are so much easier than girls on the grand scale. She will say, "I see you're wearing black with navy, not the social norm, but that's you're choice" and walk away. I've really adopted this sort of conversation while weighing whether it's imperative that I say anything at all.
Even though I may say something cool and try to leave it, I sometimes can't fight that feeling that I need to fix them. Surely their peers will sort them out ... which would be more effective if they cared what their peers thought - yin and yang.
Is this just a mom thing where we think everyone else is judging us by our kids' appearance?
As much as we can say we don't care what people think, people think that kids that look like a mess have parents that don't care enough to make sure they don't have nice, clean, matching clothes and aren't there helping them. It all goes back to our own hang-ups. This is where all our negative snap judgments and "I'll never let my my kid ..." statements come back to bite us in the rear. The truth is we all care about our kids, we just have varying degrees of needing to be in control and OCD. So once again, it's not about the surface problem at all. Like every other perceived problem, it's how we approach this and work on letting go of what's not important in order to build strong kids who want to have an ongoing relationship with us. (I'm not saying a friend relationship - don't do that).
At the end of the day, all of us care and are probably doing our best. Our effort and love have little to do with our kids' overall appearance ... probably ...
I'm still making her brush her hair out, though, or she's getting a bob!
Jen Reekie was born and raised in Quincy and received a communications degree at the University of Kansas, which has come in quite handy as she communicates every day with four children who don't hear a word she says. This stay-at-home mom enjoys the challenge, though, and shares her experiences in this blog, "Mum's the Word." She welcomes your feedback, questions and stories about staying sane while raising kids.