My Daughter Gets to Pick Out Her Own Clothes For School, Even If They’re Not Great

Since I was a little girl, my mom took me back-to-school shopping. Sure, it may not sound like a big deal. Many kids are taken school shopping. But for me, as a girl with three brothers, I always looked forward to spending an entire special day alone with my mom. We’d go out to lunch and check out all of the stores I chose to go to. But it wasn’t until I had a daughter of my own when I realized just how much these ordinary days truly meant to me.

You see, when my mom took me shopping, she let me guide her, instead of the other way around. She let me roam the racks and choose what I wanted to try on. Sure, sometimes she’d grab an outfit and ask, “How about this one?” But in the end, all the decisions were left up to me. And this is exactly what I intend on doing with my own daughter — starting this Summer — right before she starts kindergarten.

As my mother’s only daughter, you’d think that she’d have wanted to treat me as her own personal doll — to dress me up, do my hair, and mold me into her perfect little girl. But to her, I was perfect already. And by letting me choose my own clothes (and yes, even ’80s hairstyles), I was able to develop into a young woman with some pretty solid confidence. I never wished that I stood taller (though I’m only 5 feet tall), that my soccer thighs were thinner, or even that the dimples on the back of my thighs vanished. I just didn’t care.

I remember trying on clothes in the dressing room with my mother. I’d choose pieces that let me move freely but enhanced my individuality, too. I never looked in the mirror and hated the body I saw. I didn’t question the size on the tags, either — because my mom never mentioned any of it. And I’m so grateful for that early confidence boost. I hope to mimic this same dance on these shopping trips with my girl. I look forward to starting this tradition with my kindergarten daughter, not just because it will be fun for the both of us, but because of self-confidence I hope it will teach her.

If I’m being honest, I also know that it won’t be easy to keep my mouth shut — about her fashion choices. My daughter has a wild sense of style, as most 5-year-olds do. Daily, she loves wearing her leopard leggings with a floral-print dress. She’ll carefully place 5 bows in her hair at one time. But despite the craziness of her style, I bite my tongue, because in her eyes, she looks fabulous. I don’t ever want to tarnish that kind of self-esteem. As she goes to school and grows up, I’m sure her confidence will bend from time to time. She’ll look at her classmates and might become envious. But I refuse to take any part in that; I’m going to do my best to bolster her. Because as her mother, I hope to build her confidence in who she is, and how she looks.

So while this back-to-school tradition that I am about to start with my daughter may be a little ordinary, I’m hoping it’ll be a transformative one. I really think that the effects from the annual shopping ritual could shape my daughter in a lasting way. I hope that the lessons learned stay with her throughout her lifetime. And like me, I hope she never looks in the mirror and wishes that she’d see something different looking back at her. In a perfect world, her self-esteem will remain just how it is today — as a little girl whose self-image is as bold and strong as her leopard-print leggings.

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