When I was growing up, I had to dress up for dinner every night that my father was home, even if it was just eating in the kitchen. Of course I fought against it. I could not see the point. My father fought back just as viciously. “My house, my rules”, “You little savage!” and “My mother always insisted.” Well, your mother is dead and you hated her anyway, I would throw back at him. It became ugly all too often.
When I became a parent, I vowed never to fight with my children about how they dress, so long as they knew the meaning of respect (though respect is a moving target). So long as they dressed up appropriately at funerals, places of worship and sombre occasions. Otherwise, I hope I taught them well enough but also allow them to be their own individual beings. This is their world, not mine and what I was taught (like dressing up to eat dinner in the kitchen) is not necessarily applicable today and or in tomorrow’s world.
Like my loyal Ma told me, doctors these days dress like nurses, you can’t tell who is who anymore. Does dressing like a nurse make a difference? Not in my opinion. Here is my sporting Ma dressed as a rapper, to clown around with her grandkids. DO they respect her less? No. They love her more, I think. I certainly do.
Less judgemental, less controlling, because it serves no purpose. Fighting over clothing and risking relationships? Nah.
My best friend, the late Mrs Viv Foster (she was in her nineties then) told me, “Fashion fad lasts for a short while, your relationship with your daughter lasts a lifetime.”
No truer words have ever been spoken. Young adults need to explore their identities, to learn about who they are (instead of extension of other people). My daughter G wore her mermaid / princess outfit for months when she was about three, and when she was about twelve, she decided to go barefoot, even on planes, in restaurants, etc.
G went round the London medical schools in shorts. It was during the period of heat wave in London. Moreover, London universities are progressive, modern, research orientated, busy. She dressed accordingly. She took her chances with her choices but hey, it is her life. So long as she knew what she was doing, and so long as she is polite and courteous, and most importantly, so long as she is not harming anybody. Indeed, she is often complimented for her politeness. She also knows how to respect tradition. For Oxford, she was beautifully dressed because she knew it was important for me, a traditionalist, and also for Oxford. She dresses appropriately every Sunday for church – no crossed legs either.
And for me, that is what matters, teaching our children to think with their hearts, and learn to figure for themselves what is important and what is not. Think with <3, not react.