I flung the soft white rayon blouse behind me; it’s Bohemian printed tassel floated in mid-air as it descended down into the growing pile of clothes in the middle of my twelve year old daughter’s bedroom floor. Next came the vintage wash boyfriend jeans with their patched holes and cuffed bottom. Grumbling to myself, I threw them with extra force, gaining some satisfaction when they crash landed into the pile, scattering it. “Just wait until she comes home and sees this mess.” I thought to myself, smiling at the thought of her shocked face. “She’ll treat her clothes differently after she cleans this up.” Last, I grabbed the long fringe sweater that, together with the cute shoe boots, completed the outfit.
It had all started innocently enough. Looking for my daughter’s ballet clothing and shoes, I had opened the closet when I couldn’t find them. As I surveyed the clothing, empty bags of chips from after school snacks, old school papers and other various bits of trash, a red hot fire began to grow in my brain. Obviously, she had just shoved everything that was on her bedroom floor into her closet, closed the door and happily told me she had completed her weekly chore of cleaning her room.
But as I began tossing all of her stuff back onto the floor, I started to notice something. On the bottom of the pile were all of these clothes that I hadn’t seen her wear in months. Worse yet, they were her cutest clothes, the trendy ones I had been especially fond of buying for her school wardrobe. After all, being a boutique owner, fashion trends are my life. I took great pleasure in seeing her dress in hip styles. When had she stopped wearing these outfits, I thought to myself? Lately, all I’d seen her wear was tee shirts and leggings.
I was still annoyed and perplexed when I picked her up from school later that day. We chatted about school, as I laid in wait for a good time to mention the surprise waiting for her at home. When the opportunity arose, I pounced.
“So, you forgot to get your ballet bag out for me.” I said, pausing to allow my daughter to think about where I might have looked for it.
Suddenly, the dawn of recognition spread across her face. Shock and fear resonated from behind her eyes as, wide eyed, she asked, “So….did you go looking for it?”
“Yup.” I said it matter of factly, letting the “p” sound have extra emphasis and enjoying every minute. I watched her face change as a myriad of emotions played across it then watched as she looked down and began twiddling her fingers. “Any guesses what I found?” I added sweetly.
“All the stuff I shoved in my closet?” She answered, sheepishly.
“Yup.” I said again, again emphasizing the “p” sound.
“Sorry mom. I didn’t want to clean my room so I just put it all in there.”
“Hmm, what do you think I did with all of that stuff?” I asked, smiling sweetly and looking over at her with my eyebrows raised.
“Threw it all away?” my daughter said, almost sounding hopeful.
“No… I put it all back on your floor where it started. You can tackle the pile when you get home.” We drove in silence for awhile. She, I’m sure was thinking about the mess I had made, and I was trying to formulate my next question. “Why, may I ask, were all of the cute clothes we bought you for school at the bottom of your closet?”
“I don’t like those anymore.” She said, looking straight ahead.
“What do you mean you don’t like those anymore?” I responded with irritation. “Do you know how much me and your dad spent on those clothes? You liked them when we were shelling out all that money.”
“You liked them.” She said it quietly, still staring straight ahead. “You talked me into them. They just aren’t my style.”
I didn’t respond right away. My mind went back to that day in Justice when we had done her school shopping. Both my husband and I had just loved that cute Bohemian outfit with the boyfriend jeans. She looked adorable, and we probably had forced it on her a bit.
“Well, what is your style then?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“I like sportsy stuff…you know Champion, Nike, and brands like that.” She answered, looking over at me.
“Oh, okay. Good to know.” I said, and then changed the subject. But as she continued talking about her day, I thought about style and how important it is as an expression of self. My daughter was becoming her own person and trying out different styles and personas was all part of the adolescent exploration of self. And, this was just the beginning of that process. So she may not be like me and like dressing in the latest fashion trends, but I can take solace in the fact she will become who she was meant to be, an individual all her own.