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.

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was a tomboy.

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.

My daughter had never been able to wear jeans and comfy pants. Initially, I am sure she loved the “newness” of it all. But the newness quickly became a battle of the wills every morning. I realized my little princess would rather be wearing basketball shorts than a tiara and tutu. I don’t know anything about wanting to wear soccer pants and tennis shoes. I don’t understand really hating to wear skirts and bows in your hair. I simply do not get it.

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



Anonymous said...

I loved this story and having born, bread, and raising a tom-boy woman we compromised on this: wear what you want in the house and to sports. But when you step out the door, you represent the family and it is my job to guide you in what is acceptable. I can tell you as she matures and gets closer to teenage years, it gets better! And yes very smart, I don't ever buy her something that I wouldn't want her to walk out the door in. I am so thankful for uniforms for school and her individuality is in socks and hair. Speaking of hair, we have ranged from long to short to long again and this too changes with the moods of a growing woman. Making sure she has some "special clothes" for either a dress up day or her dress down day is also a compromise. You are on the right track! Never doubt yourself, and remember, she will go thru many stages, many fashions, and many moods. I myself LOVE dress clothes and shoes galore, but today, I am in sweat pants, no makeup and hair straight because I am in the mood...

Lisa said...

Sounds to me like you not only got me for a sister but for a daughter as well.... HAVE FUN! =)