[EDITED TO ADD: My mom sent me that ninth grade photo, which I've included at the bottom of this post because clearly I have no dignity left (must be all that nursing babies in public). My memory failed me just a bit because I see that I did manage to keep the bangs up for photo day. Lucky, lucky me.]
I think it is one of the blessings of technology that digital photography wasn't around in the 80's. Otherwise, with a click of the mouse, we could all too easily pull photos displaying our collective penchant for neon colors and hairspray. I'm aware that some folks are still smitten with that era, but aside from the music, jelly bracelets, and perhaps the leg-warmers, I think it is an era best left unrepeated. Although my naturally curly hair spared me the tragedy of sporting bangs that reached to the high heavens (because I couldn't get my hair to uncurl off my forehead), I still fell victim to fantastically colored eye shadow. And by fantastic, I mean that as totally un-fantastic.
Although the 80's had passed by the time I entered high school, there was still a smattering of style hanging on through the early nineties. Therefore, my 9th grade school photo is a sight to behold. Hair semi-straightened (pre-flat irons), braces, white turtleneck, turquoise sweater, turquoise hoop earrings, pink lipstick, and glowing turquoise eye shadow that perfectly matched my sweater. Thankfully, I'm far enough removed in years from the picture to not cringe anymore. That was me. It was the era. That's the way it goes.
But for many years I asked my mom about this picture as well as most of my other junior high pictures, embarrassed to the core that I ever looked so unfortunate. "What on earth were you thinking, letting me wear that out in public?"
My mom would shrug and smile. "It was fine. You looked beautiful."
Yet somehow, in my pre-parenting days, I felt like my mom should have stopped me from looking so uncool. Told me that baggy tshirts were just not flattering, that neon pink lipstick should never leave the house, and my hair was best left without all the millions of tiny clips that perfectly coordinated my outfit (or, my second favorite hair choice: to pull back little strands of hair with a rainbow of rubberbands). What are parents for except to save their children from embarrassing fashion choices?
Of course, what would my mom have said? "You look ridiculous"? Oh, that would have gone over real well in improving our mother-daughter relationship. The truth is, though, my mom didn't think I looked ridiculous. She let me make my own choices, and at the time I looked like every other kid in my school.
As a young adult, I vowed that I would keep my kids from looking goofy. Make sure they coordinated. Matched socks. Combed hair. Looked respectable. In short, micromanage their sense of choice.
Quite honestly, it has been much easier to give up this notion than I thought it would be. If Sydney wants to wear her neon-green Crocs with her dress from Hawaii, that's fine. She wants me to put her hair into funky, curly pigtails (or "ears" as she calls them)? Fine and dandy. Shoes deliberately put on the wrong feet? If it makes her happy. It's so...not a big deal. I admit I don't let her wear just anything. Turtlenecks are totally unflattering on her, so they have to go. But I've learned that at some point it's important to let kids make their own choices about small things. I hardly even notice other little kids' fashion choices these days since I am so used to unique outfit choices that toddlers make. I smiled when I was at the park last week with Inkling and her boys because Critter had put his shorts on backward. I smiled not because I thought it was silly but because that's the way we parents let it roll sometimes.
And, as of Friday, part of letting it roll was to let Sydney pick out her own glasses.
It was time for a new pair. She's had her purple Disney ones since the beginning, and that was a year and half-ago. (Here's a picture from her first day of wearing glasses.) Back then I picked out her glasses. They seemed odd, too large for her tiny face, and magnified her eyes to dinner plates. Shari, our fabulous optometrist, told us that it would be awhile before she outgrew that pair. Over the past 18 months, we've made many a visit to Shari so she can work her magic in keeping the frames from getting too helter skelter. When we visited Shari again on Friday, she pulled out a new collection of frames. "I thought of Sydney when these came in."
The new glasses are sleek, very cool, with bendy frames, and we chose ones with transitional lenses. I had Sydney try on the red frames. She looked in the mirror and tilted her head this way and that to get a good view. I held out the purple frames.
She took the turquoise frames. "Oh, how 'bout green!" she exclaimed.
"How 'bout pink?" I suggested.
"Or green?" she said as she put them on.
"Look at these pretty purple ones! Or orange! Do you want orange!" She ignored me as she looked at her turquoise frames in the mirror.
"I want green." And that was that. No matter how much I suggested she choose a different (dare I say girlish?) color, she had made up her mind. She doesn't care that strangers call her boy unless I have her in pink. She doesn't care that the tiny fleck of pink on the frames won't be large enough to indicate gender when others see this short haired, curly headed kid. She wanted green.
I briefly, very briefly, considered getting the purple ones anyway. There's a chance she'd forget which color she initially wanted. But then I decided that it was her choice. She picked green. She gets green. Plus, she can't stop talking about the new green glasses she'll get later this week.
Of course, she'll look adorable no matter what color she picks. Sure, her frames may not match most of her clothes, but that's okay. Turquoise eye shadow, turquoise glasses--what does it matter in the end? There are plenty of things Sydney won't get to choose, but in matters of identity and positive self-expression, I think she's old enough to make some choices. Maybe in many years she'll ask me, "Why on earth did you let me wear turquoise glasses?"
And I'll say, "It was fine. You looked beautiful."
Seriously. Pimples and all.
The seventies, though. Now that's when I totally found my fashion.