I told Mini she looked cute this morning, and that she’d done a good job of picking out her outfit. And then I paused. We’re not supposed to tell them they’re cute anymore, right? Because we don’t want our girls to grow up thinking only their looks have value? But then I thought of all the other things I’ve told her in the last day or so: That I was proud of her for getting a 100 on her spelling test. (And that maybe we should ask about harder words. Pointlessly, since she can usually spell something perfectly once she’s seen it written.) I told her she’s hilarious. Odds are good I called her a drama princess. (Not a day goes by without a pratfall from this kid. She did her first spit take last week.) We’ve talked about the kind of scientist she wants to be, and if she was ready to start guitar lessons up again. (Her teacher found a full time job and isn’t doing lessons anymore. Small Town does not have a lot of guitar teachers in it, and the ones I’ve heard of don’t take kids her age.)
I told her I liked her outfit because of an argument we had early this week, while getting ready for school. We hadn’t picked out her clothes the night before, so I had to trust her judgement while I made her lunch. Always a hit or miss prospect. That day was a miss. A really cute watercolor-y floral chiffon top all flowy and girly, and camo print basketball shorts. All the important bits were covered. The shorts came from the “boys” section, so they went down to her knees instead of barely covering her butt. The shirt wasn’t sheer, and even had a little built in shrug thing. But I couldn’t do it. I pulled out the leggings that actually came with the shirt and a regular tshirt.
“You can change the shorts or you can change the shirt,” I said.
Mini threw herself to the floor screaming, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” in a way that would put Shatner to shame.
So, you know, how most of our conversations go when I ask her to do something. Eventually, she changed into the leggings. And that’s why I think it’s important for me, as her mother, to tell her when she’s cute, when she picked out a good outfit. She has to learn about picking out clothes that are appropriate. And sure, chiffon and camo are probably perfectly fine for Montessori. But someday she won’t be there. Someday she’ll be trying to figure out what the fuck business casual means. She’ll be trying to pick something out for a dinner, or a date, or just to hang out with her friends at the mall. That should not be a painful or difficult choice. This is why I fought for her right to not wear a uniform. We don’t live in some dystopian military society, not yet. Picking out clothing is a skill, and it can be a hard one to learn. (Especially for girls, given the higher expectations for them when it comes to fashion.) So yes, I’ll tell her she looks cute, but that’s not all.