November 8, 2011
Fashion Lessons Through Adoption
A year and a half ago, we adopted our daughter from Russia. Our battle to bring her home has been well documented over the nearly six years it took for us to get her here. During that time, I found myself immersed in a plethora of adoption-help books. I was prepared for anything, for RAD, PTSD – you know, all of the adoption buzz acronyms.
Early on, she was very particular about what she was going to wear. Looking back, I remember her caregivers at the orphanage telling me she liked to choose her own clothes. During our first few months together, I had grand plans of my little girl wearing frilly dresses with bows in her hair. I daydreamed about her and me playing dolls and shopping for new dolly things together. I was sure she would love to have her nails painted and wear lip gloss.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Maybe it was okay – allow her to be her own person, chose her own clothes. I mean, it’s just clothes, right? Wrong.
Unless you are a PAP (post-adoptive-parent), you won’t understand the notion of not allowing choices with an adoptive child initially. For those who don’t understand, let me be clear – it is a bad idea! Choices with what to wear every day became a struggle between what I wanted my daughter to wear and her need to control that one part of her life she thought she could control. But it occurred to me: what if my mother didn’t allow me to be girly. What if I was forced to wear soccer pants and tennis shoes rather than cute skirts and Mary Janes? This made me understand the need for balance; you can’t give a growing kid an endless array of choices, but you can work with them to find compromise.
This led me to my first parenting rule:
Parenting Rule #1: choose your battles wisely.
I decided to do the seemingly obvious thing. Remove everything from her closet that wasn’t okay with me. It worked! Yes, she still has some track pants and basketball shorts. When we go shopping, I get her input on what we purchase – we do this together. During the school year on Sunday nights, I choose four outfits for her to wear for the week. Each day that week (Monday – Thursday) she can choose which of these outfits to wear. And then on Friday, she can wear whatever she wants.
We also battled over her hair. When we first got home from Russia, her hair grew at a crazy rate. My fantasy was for her to have long, flowing hair that I could adorn with the most precious pink bows I could find. Well, my darling daughter had none of it. She hated to have her hair brushed let alone to sit still for me to curl and decorate it. To avoid this issue every morning, we cut her hair. Honestly, it is much cuter on her than the long hair, and we are both happy.
I am still struggling with her shoes. Getting her feet out of flip flops and into a nice patented dress shoe will probably never happen. And then there is the general fit of things. She calls it “tight.” I say “it fits.”
But, with all that said, her choices are getting better and better, and I am getting better and better at letting go.
This article appears in the November 2011 issue of The Family Magazine of Michiana