My kids pick their own clothes. I provide input sometimes and on rare occasions make demands (mostly about dress-up clothing), but in general I figure it is a good way for them to exercise autonomy and to make cheap mistakes. Barbara Coloroso, who wrote one of my favorite parenting books, says that if you let kids make mistakes when they're cheap, they're less likely to make costly mistakes down the line. So hey -- you want to wear shiny green shorts with a red striped top? Be my guest.
This morning Pete agreed that he wouldn't wear a tank top, but he insisted on wearing a T-shirt and shorts. We stepped outside for the walk to preschool and he said, "You're right, Mom! [<-three of my favorite words] It's chilly out here." Not chilly enough to change, he said, so off we went.
We're having lovely early fall weather here, cool nights and warm days. I didn't worry about Pete's attire for a minute, but when I picked him up the teacher asked to speak to me privately. Before the class went outside she had insisted that he put on a jacket -- one of the extras they keep at the preschool. He had declined, saying he didn't mind the chill and he didn't want to wear someone else's jacket. She said, no, really, you have to wear the jacket. He burst into tears. He said he wasn't going outside if he had to wear someone else's jacket. Down he sat, and there he stayed until I arrived.
I am a little puzzled by her reaction. I am feeling guilty, because (a) every other child in the class had brought a jacket and (b) I was five minutes late for pick-up. Underneath the guilt, though, is a conviction that a 4yo can make a reasonable choice about whether to wear a jacket on a day like today. I can see taking a firm stand on a 20-degree day, but today? really? That's not the hill I'm going to die on. (NB: I have never sent a child out in shorts on a 20-degree day. Temps in the low sixties today.)
She seems to view it pretty differently, though. Stay tuned. And tell me, please, what you think about kids and clothes.