From the moment our ultrasound revealed “it’s a girl!,” I dreamed of how I would dress my little girl. Smocked dresses, appliqués, monograms, bows, coordinating shoes, the whole deal…and, up until last fall, I had my own little doll to dress however I wanted. Her wardrobe became somewhat of a hobby for me – with two very full double closets, bins of clothes stored away for future little girls to come, and the likelihood that each outfit would be worn once, maybe twice if it was a favorite.
In some of the Facebook clothing groups that I’m in, there is such a thing as an “outfit of the day” post. I do realize that this statement itself is actually quite ridiculous (facebook clothing group? outfit of the day?), but essentially someone starts an #ootd thread and people load pictures in the comments of what their kid is wearing that day with brand and sizing info. I typically would snap a picture of my daughter on the steps on the way out the door bright and early to work/school, posting it both in my Facebook groups and on my own Instagram (with a custom hashtag, of course).
While this whole ritual may sound strange, being able to chronicle her outfits and look back over time gives me joy. Dressing her brings me joy.
And so, last fall, when my daughter started screaming bloody murder over clothes, you might imagine the amount of trauma this brought on me.
It started with a wedding. At almost three years old, she was the flower girl in my brother’s wedding – a precious gold chiffon dress with rose gold undertones with Livie and Luca gold pios for her feet. Getting her dressed in the church, she absolutely lost it. We did get the dress on her, but the shoes were a no go. She was miserable. She refused to walk down the aisle; luckily my husband and I were both in the wedding so she ended up walking down with us instead. At the time, I figured she was tired and out of routine. What I did not realize was that it was a sign of what was to come.
Over the next months, getting dressed in the morning became a miserable experience. I talked to friends, sought advice online, talked to the pediatrician. Everyone said to give her three options, that this was about control for her. We tried this with no success. None of the options would work. Getting dressed would end with one of us holding her down while the other one forced clothes on her, with her screaming and thrashing all the while.
The final straw were her shoes. Over Christmas break, she started insisting on only wearing rain boots or slippers. When it was time to go back to school, no amount of bribery, sticker charts, peer pressure, or force would get the tennis shoes on her feet. If we shoved them on her kicking feet, she would just take them right off. We couldn’t go places because she wouldn’t wear shoes. It was a problem in the classroom, where she couldn’t participate in activities without shoes.
We’re fortunate to have a school with an incredible support system that includes a counselor for each division. After talking with our counselor, we connected the dots of all this behavior and wondered if the underlying cause was not typical toddler behavior, need for control, or being tired/bad mood/upset, but rather something bigger. She suggested I read about sensory processing disorders.
Finally, it all made sense. I turned to my facebook group – yes, the one with the outfit of the day posts, and posed the question to them… my internet friends came to my rescue in droves. It turns out that many of them deal with varying levels of sensory issues. They were encouraging, they were affirming, and they gave me the information I needed to do what I needed to do…
I needed to let go of the outfit of the day. Sure, there were other steps we would take. In the coming months, we would get an OT evaluation and begin therapy, but that first step, letting go, that one was something immediate I could do to help my daughter.
I had to give up my precious doll with her precious clothes. They were making her miserable. I had to give up the image I wanted to portray at church and school – the image I wanted to portray on social media.
I listened to my now three year old and asked her about how clothes felt. Things can’t be too tight, scratchy, have elastic, and absolutely could not have seams. Shoes needed to be loose. Socks were a no go. As I worked with her, instead of against her, I learned from her how to dress her without causing distress. It turns out that the way certain clothes felt physically hurt her. Because of her sensory processing disorder, the way things feel is amplified, so if I have a tag that is scratching my neck or pants that are too tight, I notice but can deal. She gets signals that overpower her brain and she can’t deal.
Things aren’t perfect now, but they are better. She has a large selection of dresses with no seams, no elastic sleeves, and no scratchy applique backings. It is warmer, so pants are less of an issue. We have found a shoe brand that is wide and soft on the inside (still no socks though…).
Does she look exactly how I would dress her in my imagination? No.
Is she still perfect and beautiful? Absolutely yes.
In letting go of my outfit of the day, I allowed her to be happy, healthy, and thrive. I’d make that decision over and over.
And I do still take her outfit of the day picture. Now I take it with the pride of knowing that she picked out clothes that feel good to her and let her be her best.