This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2016
Dedicated to Nanna!
Nothing new under the sun, German postcard, 1910
I’m thinking I might start a fashion line called ‘Four Year Old’. Every garment in my first collection (I shall call it More Is More) will be sparkly, glittering or bejewelled. It will be spectacular, and also, utterly mad.
Four is the age of independence, a time when a fierce sense of personhood expresses itself in lots of ways, most fabulously through the wardrobe. I will choose my clothes, Mummy! No! I will dress myself!
Little Pudding is my third child down the runway of life, and I’ve realised a few things along the way. First, resistance is futile. The more you want your child to dress in Fair-Trade neutral organic cotton woven by a feminist collective in Uzbekistan, the more they will assert their right to wear synthetic Frozen-themed sportswear.
I’m thinking, specifically, here, of the pain I felt when my firstborn Peanut became obsessed, age three, with a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts that Nanna picked up at the op shop. (Nanna!!) I hated those shorts, and the emotional power this gave Peanut (See Mummy sweat! See Mummy plead!) spurred her on to greater and greater heights of rebellion, until eventually she insisted on wearing, every day, the Wiggles boxer shorts, a t-shirt that read ‘Bring Back Warnie’ and a pair of plastic Wiggles sunglasses. When I insisted on putting her uniform through the wash, she would wait patiently by the window. ‘Is Warnie dwy, Mama? Will Warnie be dwy soon?’
Hopelessly optimistic, I would proffer classic brown sandals, woollen capes and sweet bird brooches, as she pushed past me to get to the pink heels that Nanna picked up for her at the op shop. (Nanna!!)I was so adamant that my first-born daughter wouldn’t fall victim to the Princess syndrome that of course (can you feel what is coming? Nanna found it hilarious) by age four Peanut would not only wear nothing but pink, but also insisted she be referred to as Pinky Winky.
When my son T-Bone was four, he insisted that his outfits be ‘like a fruit salad’ which involved combining colour, pattern and print in such violently clashing ways that passers-by would have to shield their eyes from the glare. Also, he loved to wear his clothes backwards, which made for a lot of bum-flashing.
Of course, now that Peanut and T-Bone are nine and seven, their fashion choices take different forms. Peanut wears two different shoes to school every day, and chooses her outfits on how well they facilitate handstands. T-Bone barely notices whether he has shoes on or not.
It’s my third child, Pudding, who is deep in the pre-school fashion zone now. Bedazzled and glorious, she embodies the opposite of Coco Chanels famous advice: ‘get dressed, and then take one thing off’. For Pudding and her peers, enough is never enough. In fact, the pre-school playground should sport a warning sign: ‘Beware: Intensive Glitter Zone. 7% Chance Of Mild Epileptic Fit. 85% Chance Of Headache. Do Not Look Directly At Children As Costumes May Blind’.
This third time round, I surrender. I empty my drawers of all the neutrals, the camel, tan and cream, the darling brown Mary-Janes and the vintage coats. Off they go to the op-shop, for other hopeful mothers of size 3-4 youngsters. I retain the synthetic fibres, the unnatural colours and anything Frozen. Also, I’ll take notes for the fashion line. And I’ll dedicate the first collection to Nanna, because she knew all along, of course, that this sweet and hilarious time won’t last and the best idea of all is to just enjoy it, in all its sparkly madness.