I always dreamed of dressing my little girl in smocked outfits and grosgrain bows. It never, not once, occurred to me that I’d have a daughter with an opinion.
Every day clothes are a battle. That shirt Mary Virginia was obsessed with yesterday? NOOOO! I NO LIKE IT! I no lika dat shirt!
I find myself constantly apologizing for and explaining her outfits so people don’t think I opened her closet, considered the options, and chose those bright pink pants, Virginia Tech football jersey, purple socks and red shoes. Again.
I’ve considered — maybe the solution is to build a wardrobe that completely matches. A seamlessly coordinated capsule wardrobe for a toddler.
But then I realized that wouldn’t even work. Because this little girl? She has a brother. And his clothes are her favorite.
The other day we went to the library and Mary Virginia was wearing David’s 3T shirt, a pair of pink ruffle pants, and the sneakers she calls her fast shoes. She’d just had a bath so her hair was wild and wavy, and she brought along her doll-doll and her doll-doll purse containing a bowl of fake food, a bib, bloomies, a spoon, and a potty. Because I need more stuff to keep track of.
We go to storytime at the library a lot and we always get fussed at by the librarians. We’re either too loud, or standing when we should be sitting, or we’re in storytime for preschoolers when we’re supposed to be in storytime for toddlers, or because we run to the front of the room screaming because we want to hold the giant goat puppet the librarian is using to read the story. But it’s totally ok because WE LOVE STORYTIME. And also because the librarian usually has a valid point.
On this particular day, we were so late that we weren’t allowed to go to storytime. But, like I said, totally ok because — valid point, librarian — we were really, really late. And because the library is still really, really fun, even if you can’t go to storytime.
Mary Virginia and I played in the library with some friends until it was time to go pick up David from school. We did our best to be on good behavior, put toys back when we were done with them, and not smash raisins in board books.
When it was time to leave, I gathered all of our stuff and Mary Virginia walked out in front of me, doll-doll in one hand, doll-doll purse in the other. As we passed the librarian’s desk, she hopped up and said, “That little girl! In the green shirt! What’s her name?”
I answered, and kept walking to keep up with Mary Virginia, who was now running, and worried that maybe we were on some “keep an eye on these two” list.
“She is so cute!” the librarian continued, catching up with us. “She looks like…an illustration! She could be in a character in a story!”
I smiled and said thank you, and the librarian continued walking with us, complimenting Mary Virginia and noting her outfit and accessories. She walked with us to the exit, and then waved at us from the door.
As we drove away it occurred to me, she has a point (she’s a professional, after all). Mary Virginia, with her mismatched clothes and ridiculous requests, fits right in with Amelia Bedelia and Ramona Quimby. She looked like she’d walked right out of a story.
In her story, she’d be a clever, sweet little girl with blue eyes and a mind of her own. She’d be brave and a little bit wild, and always, always be in the mood to cuddle up in her mama’s lap.
And perhaps her first book might even be about the day she taught her mama that, self-expression is more important than fitting in, and who cares what other people think anyway? And shirts and shoes don’t matter at all because it’s what’s on the inside that counts.