“I don’t like dresses.”
So said my seven-year-old daughter on our shopping excursion.
Overnight, it appeared, that her limbs had extended at an alarming rate.
It was also a rude awakening to the fact my input into her sartorial choices was now drawing to a close.
Her disapproval of my fondness for a frock was just the tip of the iceberg.
It was now evident our tastes were more than several degrees apart. Whereas, I longed for form (Exhibit A: Fond of a frock), she was only interested in function.
This current preference towards items of clothing is entirely reflective of her as a person. She runs fast, makes decisions with equal speed, cartwheels and sprints through fields with such velocity as to render her an almost blur. She scrapes her hair back into a ponytail from her face, of which only I am allowed to construct after an international incident with my husband one sports day after he failed to secure her tresses correctly.
Her choices are geared towards movement and she does not have time for any such accoutrements which hinder same.
Add to this the influence of friends and that age-old compulsion of wanting to conform and suddenly she had developed a particular taste for various hues of purple and a greedy eye cast towards cropped hoodies. Each suggestion presented to her was met with an uncertain look or at other times, one of utter disdain.
Whereas before, I could quite happily spend an evening perusing look books online and selecting garments to be delivered straight to my door, now, she wanted input, control even.
Her brother, whilst older, remained unfussed in his approach. Merely pulling the first thing from the wardrobe and whacking it on before hightailing it outside. His sister, on the other hand, was developing a routine. Each morning after brushing her teeth, she would return to her desk.
Littered with her hair tie collection, she would make her choice before dragging the hairbrush through her tendrils while looking at her reflection in the tiny mirror propped in the corner. With a final slick of lip balm, she would turn her attention to her clothing options. As deftly as she attended to her hair, she made her outfit selection with equal aplomb. I watched with fascination as she got herself ready for the day.
“It’s a good thing that we separated them isn’t it?” said Himself. “She has stuff everywhere.”
He was right. Up until a few weeks ago, they had shared a room since my daughter was six months old. With the acquisition of spaces independent of one another, they developed new habits instantaneously. However, the old adage of ‘Monkey see, monkey do’, was being turned on its head entirely.
You see, where she did not have a hair our of place, mine was in a constant state of unkempt. Where I favoured dresses, she preferred jeans or sports gear. Yet vexing as it was to push aside any suggestions I might have regarding clothing, it was also reassuring to see her have such a grasp of her own choices.
Yes, she tested limits by proposing some heinous options but once refused, she turned her attention to making another selection without fuss. It was mutual acknowledgement of our new shared space; one where she was aware that as her parents, we were footing the bill for her choices so her concession was to appreciate same while compromising on some of her more questionable propositions.
Paying for her own purchases (albeit with our money!) became important to her. As did having said purchases in a shopping bag independent of ours. It was another assertion on her part.
It is a curious thing to watch your child so suddenly become themselves; be it in their choices of clothing, their gaining of confidence, their developing work ethic or their strength of character. To see her so sure of her decisions gave me reassurance.
On picking one vibrantly coloured t-shirt, I asked her, instead of directly refusing, why did she like it so much? I was anticipating a reply along the lines of she had seen someone sporting it on YouTube etc. She answered: “It’s the same colour as that ladies costume from the documentary I watched with Dad.”
She was referring to Losers, a series which profiles athletes who have turned defeat into human triumph, and in particular the episode with the phenomenal French figure skater, Surya Bonaly. “You can get the t-shirt,” I replied. “And I’ll pay.”