Saturday, November 16, 2013

Developing a Child's Sense of Self...or Celebrating Bed Head

You know how kids get so excited to show their stuff to people who come to visit? It’s like they're under the impression that their own tiny hands actually stitched the teddy bear together, or that they slowly chiseled their toy duck from a block of wood.

Indeed, the other day, Claire fancied herself the architect of her favorite playground, and needed to give her Uncle Tom a tour of her brainchild.

Uncle Tom happily agreed to check out her swings and slide. That was fine, except Claire looked more suited for an afternoon nap than for the playground. She was still wearing pajamas, and she had bed head: her hair was smushed to the back of her head in endless tangles.

I usually don't care how Claire looks. There are only so many toddler battles I can face in a day. Why fight her when she wants to keep on her bow pajamas? (I did let her go out with underwear on her head one time, though. The funny part was that no one even batted an eye. Remember: we live in NYC; people are thankfully non-plussed.)

But Uncle Tom and Claire decided a trip to the park was imminent. And Tom is a photographer. When he grabbed his camera before heading out the door, I looked at Claire and said to him, “You’re not going to put these on Facebook are you? I don’t want anyone knowing I let Claire go out this way.”

Ah, yes, my child as brilliant extension of me. Those time when I see my daughter’s looks or her behavior or her intelligence as a reflection on me.

It got me thinking about the boundary that begins developing between parent and child the second they leave the womb. And, consequently, how we grow a child's sense of self.

I read somewhere that the relationship between a parent and child is unique, because it’s the only one in which the purpose is to love and nurture enough to let the person go.

A good place to start the slow, sometimes painful, process of separation is letting my daughter choose what she wears.

But, sometimes, I'm more concerned about myself than Claire's sense of self. Like the days when we are going to go visit Grammy or taking a picture with Santa. Those days, I am full of bribes and threats to have my sweet innocent reflect her beauty back on me.

Other days, I let her be. She did go to the playground in all of her bedheaded, pajamaed glory. And I have a brilliant Uncle Tom photo to prove it. I barely even notice the pajamas in it. If I do say so myself, I couldn't ask for a better reflection on me...

Photo Source: Tom Bruso

There's more...Jane Marsh of Nothing by the Book got me thinking about this topic. She has a definite opinion about hair brushing that I can safely say would go in the "Celebrating Bed Head" category. What's your opinion about how a child should look? 

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Check out this week's fabulous features:

Cristi, Motherhood Unadorned, Mother Freakin' Funny (you'll laugh, oh boy, you'll laugh!)

Stephanie, Mommy is for Real, When Your Child is Anxious (such good advice!)


  1. I know this feeling well and will say that I have had my fair share of days where I haven't fought either of my girls with the way they dress, but for special occasions I have been guilty of making sure not a hair is out of place. I think that it is natural to want to get them to look just right for those moments, but still maybe it is a bit controlling on my part. And I love how you described the underwear on her head and that no one in NY even flinched. I guess if you have seen naked cowboy roaming in Times Square, a kid with her underwear on her head is nothing new! Sorry, I couldn't resist the fellow NYer reference :)

  2. One day she will look back on these photos and yell "OMG Mom! You let me go out like that?!" and you can cackle at her. ;)

  3. A child should look happy. And I can say that with confidence because my child is one and lets me brush her hair. ;)

  4. It has taken me years..But the kid is now eight and she now endears people to her with her style. A teacher said I love that she chooses what to wear and she is like I don't care if you like it, I LIKE IT.

  5. Ha, love you leave her go put in her Jim jams. Clothes can be such an area of control with mothers/daughters. Good for you.

  6. She's rocking the jammie look, and kudos to Uncle for getting a great pic. :)

    I hope they enjoyed their visit to the playground. I suspect they did. :)

  7. As somebody who was anal and weird about her son being in adorable Polos and expensive jeans when he was young, and him letting me dress him however I wanted back then...well...he got an opinion now and it's sweats and collar-less shirts. Sigh. He has SO many cute clothes. And his hair? Well. Some of my favorite photos are the real ones. I love this. She's adorable and I'd never think about the PJ's in that photo. All I see are her gorgeous eyes, looking up at the sky.

  8. I can definitely relate to your dilemma. I often (scratch that, replace with always) want my son to look a certain way. The issue of appearance runs deeper with me and knowing that he's wearing mismatched socks, even if they're hidden behind his massive winter boots makes me feel un-calm. You make an incredibly wise observation, though, about choosing your battles and letting separation begin with small independent choices, like what do I get to wear. I will try to embrace this principle.

  9. The battle-choice angle is so important to my sanity. It took me a while to quit being hung up on everything that I would do differently that my son doesn't want to do; it took *really* grasping that he is not me.

    My little guy usually picks his own clothes (he's 3) and they're rarely matched and rarely in good shape and he doesn't even have a hair brush and worse yet I don't even watch my language around him. But he eats well and plays happily and he's a good-hearted lad and that's all I ever dreamed of.


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