Once upon a time, my son was quite a well-dressed child. Constructing his wardrobe was one of my favorite past times, and I scoured boutiques, department stores, outlets, and online stores for the perfect outfits for each occasion.
This went on for roughly about five and half years ... or to be exact until January 16, 2009, when his little sister was born. Then all of a sudden, any old t-shirt was good enough for him while my head clouded with visions of dresses, tights, and bows, oh my. I had a girl to dress, and dress her I have. The delight I had gotten from picking clothes for my son has been multiplied by like a bazillion percent now that pink is in the picture because, well, girls' clothes are just so much cuter. (Though if you had told me that when I had only a boy I would have argued you to the death.)
And it's gone on that way ever since. For example, months ago I started searching for and finally purchased my daughter's Christmas dress. It's a lovely hand-smocked dress in pink and blue, and it cost entirely too much money even though I had a coupon. Still, it was for Christmas, and it's a special event, and ... I could give 22 more ways I justified it. But there it has been hanging in the closet just waiting for the events to which she'll wear it.
And my son will be wearing ... holy crap. I have no idea. I'm hoping something from last year will fit him, and if not maybe we could throw a sweater on top if the sleeves are too short? It should be something that will match my daughter's dress, of course ... and once again he gets shafted.
I haven't really even felt much guilt about it either because my son could frankly care less about what he wears, while my daughter squeals at the sight of new socks. Or I didn't, until I came across this article titled "Beautiful Man Clothes" by Devon Corneal at the Huffington Post.
It's a lovely piece in which she talks about how her 5-year-old son asked when he would get "beautiful man clothes," and she initially shrugged off his request. Her husband, however, realized it wasn't so much about the clothes but what the clothes represent. It's a great read, and it got me thinking about what messages I'm sending to my son about the clothing I buy for him ... or don't.
It's not the individual pieces -- he looks fine -- it's the effort I put into choosing his sister's and not his that I worry about most. Does that say to him that I care less about him? Does it mean his appearance doesn't matter? Does it send a message to my daughter that she should care more about how she looks than he does? Does my caring much about the clothes they wear at all make me shallow and superficial?
I don't know. I do think that taking pride in one's appearance is important -- both for men and women. But I also know too well how quickly and deeply an obsession with how one looks can manifest, especially in girls, and I think it's a tricky balance between the two. But whether they're right or wrong, the messages I'm sending to my children certainly aren't equal.
When it comes to parenting I tend to follow my instincts more than anything else, but sometimes something like this comes along and makes me question them, and I welcome that. Not to beat myself up over things I can't undo or to over analyze every little decision I make, but rather to make me step back with a thoughtful eye and consider how I might do things better. So this weekend, I think my son and I have some shopping to do for a Christmas outfit.
Do you put more effort into your girls' wardrobes than your boys?
Image via Julie Ryan Evans