While I’m pretty accustomed to debating and compromising with Punkin’ Bear each morning as we decide which outfit she’s going to wear to school, I recently noticed that it was getting to be more frequent and with much more fervor than before. I chalked it up to a growing need on her part to establish independence (I mean, after all she is ALMOST four!) that was pushing her to the stubborn side when choosing her fashion selection du jour. And with that, as you always need to do when kids hit new ages and stages, I tried to adapt and still give her some freedom to make her own decisions (though admittedly with gritted teeth when I would see her pairing a purple sweater with neon pink pants – but who am I to decide that this isn’t all the rage in pre-school these days?) while setting some firm parameters (yes, PB, you DO need to wear socks AND shoes).
Well just a few days ago, I took Punkin’ Bear to school in (what I thought to be) a cute pink and brown polka dot shirt, with matching brown pants and brown and pink shoes. I was feeling pretty good because she let me pick MOST of her outfit out this time around which is rare. And even more importantly, I shaved about 10 minutes off our morning routine so we were actually able to get out the door on time! When we arrived at school, PB walked into her classroom where she was greeted by her 2 best friends -both wearing dresses. Now if that in and of itself wouldn’t have been enough to send Punkin’ into a bit of a panic, one of the little girls pointed out very clearly and firmly “WE’RE both wearing DRESSES”. And there you had it. PB turned right out of the room and wouldn’t come back in because, in her words, she “wasn’t pretty enough”. Wow. That’s heartbreaking for a mom to see- her daughter so self conscious and upset over something that you wish you could tell her REALLY doesn’t matter. Yet, to her it does and probably will for at least the next 15+ years.
Fast forward to the next day. I decided that we were not going to have a repeat and so after a philosophical debate with myself, I decided to succumb to the peer pressure (really, I felt pressured by a group of 3-year old girls. Oh my.) and dressed Punkin’ in a dress. A sure-fire win, right? No tears, just fitting in and being happy with friends to focus on. So, we arrived at school and I felt pretty assured that PB was going to have no problems. Until that is, when her friends greeted her at the door of the classroom. Only this time, we were greeted with “WE’RE wearing PURPLE today.” Uh oh. PB was wearing pink.
And then it became clear. This new found need to pick out exactly what she wore to school everyday had more to do with wanting to be part of the group than it was a cry for more independence. And while I was really shocked that peer pressure begins so early (I thought this didn’t happen until the ‘tween’ years!) I guess it is something we’ll be facing for many years to come. I just hope that I can teach her to accept and even appreciate the wonderful differences in ADDITION to the similarities we all share.