Until she was three and a half, June didn’t care much about her clothes and I dressed her mostly in Noah’s hand-me-downs, with the occasional girly outfit her grandmothers would buy her. And then quite suddenly, she cared. She wanted nothing but dresses and skirts and nothing but pink (“Pink is the New Black,” October 22, 2009).
I adjusted to the new reality somewhat grudgingly, but I bought her some pink clothes and started letting her pick her own clothes every morning with the following exceptions: Christmas, Thanksgiving, the first day of every school year, school picture day, and Mondays. I declared that henceforth, Monday would be Mommy Day, which meant I chose her outfit. That way she could express herself most of the week and I could keep Noah’s hand-me-downs in circulation, though they certainly did not get as much wear as the baby and smaller toddler sizes did. One of the good things about the system was that sometimes after wearing something she would not have chosen herself she’d decide she liked it after all and she would subsequently choose it on her own. (Once this backfired when a boy at school told her the cartoon wolf t-shirt she’d taken a shine to was for boys and she never wore it again.)
Some time near the inception of Mommy Day, June asked me how long it would continue. “Until you’re seven,” I answered without even pausing to think about it. I’m still not sure why that came out of my mouth. It might have been because it was twice her current age and seemed impossibly far away. More likely it was because my mother’s own version of Mommy Day (which was Mondays and Wednesdays) lasted until the end of first grade, when I was seven. June often commented how funny it was that I had to wear dresses on Mommy Day and she had to wear pants. Also, how Grandmom was very strict to make me do it twice a week.
I don’t always choose pants on Mommy Day, though. Often I will select a skirt that’s worked its way to the bottom of her drawer, just to remind her about it. Or I will attempt to use it to initiate a discussion about matching. (“See, I chose the brown leggings to go with this dress because the dress has a lot of brown in it. But the leggings are a solid color so they don’t clash with the flowered dress.”) She will listen politely and then dress herself in three different stripe patterns (shirt, leggings, and socks) the next day.
In the past year or so, June has actually worn pants or leggings more often than dresses or skirts (and there was several months last spring and summer when she eschewed dresses all together). And about a month after she turned six, her favorite color changed from pink to orange. Her wardrobe still has more pink than any other color because she grows slowly and she had quite a lot of pink clothes and orange clothes are much harder to find. Her style is still feminine. Her favorite shirt is light blue, a color she’s been wearing a lot recently—I think it might be an emergent new favorite color– but it has ruffles and lace and embroidered flowers and a little ribbon bow. No one is ever going to tell her it’s for boys.
June will turn seven in less than two weeks, so today was the second to last Mommy Day. Over the past three and a half years she has never forgotten the end point and for the past couple months she has been counting down the weeks eagerly, especially when I’ve chosen something she doesn’t like, which isn’t every week. Often I will get a “Not bad for Mommy Day,” comment from her. A week ago, though, she complained bitterly about the green corduroys I picked saying, “I don’t like how they look and I don’t like how they feel and I don’t like how they sound.” In general she prefers her pants without much structure—leggings and knit pants, no jeans or chinos or corduroys. If it zips or buttons or snaps, chances are she won’t like it so mostly I steer clear of those kind of pants. But knowing the end was so close I just had to see those green cords one more time.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been examining the contents of June’s clothes drawers and realizing there is a lot I can put away because she’s never going to wear it after her birthday. Similarly, the next time I bring hand-me-downs up from the basement, I will more selective. (For some reason Noah’s old pajamas are almost always acceptable to her. Maybe because no one but us sees her in them.)
For this penultimate Mommy Day, I decided to build an outfit around the red number six t-shirt she got for her birthday last year, as she won’t be able to wear it much longer. (Well, I suppose she could but it’s more fun to wear the number shirts when they accurately reflect your age—that’s what both of my kids have always thought.) I found a blue and red striped long-sleeved polo to put under it and a pair of stretch jeans she likes better than the regular kind. Her verdict: “Really not bad for Mommy Day.”
I’m sorry to see Mommy Day go, but I know it’s time. I’d keep my promise even if June had forgotten it. I do remember what it’s like having a different style than the one my mother would have preferred and how I appreciated her letting me make my own decisions about how to present myself to the world, even to the point of telling my sixth-grade teachers if they wanted me to wear a denim skirt instead of jeans to the square dance they would have to convince me themselves because she certainly couldn’t do it. I was the only girl to wear jeans to the performance.
The ironic thing is I don’t mind skirts now, and often wear them, usually for special occasions, but sometimes, most often in the summer, for no particular reason, other than it feels like a good day to wear a skirt. That’s what June can decide now every day of the week—whether it’s a good day for a ruffles and lace, for something orange, pink, or aqua, or just maybe, every now and then, something her brother used to wear.