In July of 2011, I began a new blog entitled: Eff and Other Words. It’s been a labor of love and laughs (I do curse from time to time, so be warned) and I started a series on the funny side of parenting. While this post lent itself nicely to that forum, I thought it also reflected some insight into how my girls express themselves and how I embrace that tendency.
The challenges of parenting in this day and age are oftentimes overwhelming. I’m introducing a new segment to “Eff” that bears this in mind. It’s going to be called Eff Parenting. As a single mother, I am constantly balancing the act and I have chosen, I believe wisely, what behaviors to correct and what tendencies to encourage. Cultivating a unique fashion sense is something that has free reign in my house. To that end… meet my Cate.
When my daughter Cate was born, it was after being in active labor for seven days. Yes, seven days. My pregnancy with Cate was one for the ages. I had hyperemesis gravidarum which is fancy talk for extreme morning sickness, except that it’s not just in the morning. It’s constant and debilitating. I was treated several times for dehydration and would routinely use my desk trash can when it would hit suddenly. Additionally, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and spent the greater part of that nine months eating and then throwing up really, really bland food.
Cate arrived on July 21st, and it was on one of the hottest days in the summer. At exactly seven days old we were rushing her to the hospital thinking she wasn’t breathing right watching her face turn terrifying shades of blue. This led to a month on a holter monitor constantly tracking her heart rate and oxygen saturation only to be told quite simply, “she just seems to turn that color when she sleeps.” Good answer to a mother who hasn’t gotten sleep for the past month.
Now, at four-and-a-half years of age, Cate is very much her own person. She expresses herself most notably in her fashion sense. Every evening, we go to her closet and she carefully picks out her next day outfit including socks, shoes, and the occasional hat or sunglasses. She has demonstrated that she can, in fact, match the clothes, she just prefers not to, often layering her clothes bright patterns contrasting violently in the wake.
I often remark she’ll be on TV someday… on Hoarders or the equivalent. I can picture her standing in her mismatched sweater, cotton print shorts, and snow boot ensemble at age 45 screaming that the pizza box from two weeks ago holds a great deal of sentimental value for her. Her Disney Princess and Hello Kitty purses are stuffed full of trinkets, wrappers, silverware, toys, candy bits, pens, buttons, seashells and my jewelry. She also has a coveted “pink box” that must accompany us everywhere. It’s filled with miniature nail polishes, beads, and smiley face bouncy balls.
I take her places in her chosen attire as well, in case you are wondering. The grocery store, the mall, soccer games, and even on vacation. She once wore arm floaties to a family dinner at my grandma’s house. Fish was served that night, I can only imagine she was giving silent tribute to the fallen salmon.
We get looks, double takes, as Cate proudly walks down aisles and through doors and I just smile. In a world where girls are all too often pushed to become carbon copies of what they see on television and in fashion magazines or succumbing to victimization of the “mean girls” and selling their souls for popularity I’ll encourage her to listen to her own drum beat.
Sure, I could redirect her to the matching sweat suits and the color coordinated outfits in her closet, but it just wouldn’t feel like Cate. Since before she was born, she’s been making waves. If I can help her find her identity and maintain it with pride and confidence, that’s what I’m going to do. Even if it means she wears a swim top over a polka-dot print long sleeve cotton shirt for an outing to the park.
It’s not about the clothes on her body, but the soul that’s housed inside. And that soul is always dressed to the nines (and hoarding my kitchen utensils).