Just before bedtime I put on a brave face and begin “The Great Fashion Debate.” What will my step-daughter wear the next day? I try to open with a note on the weather or the next day’s activities–long sleeves if it’s cold, something fancier if we’ll be going to synagogue–and then wait for Ronia’s first choice. At 5 years old, Ronia is not as invested in fashion as some of her friends, but she definitely cares, and has a strong affinity for dresses and skirts, pink things, and anything with ruffles.
This could not be farther from my own fashion sense. Seventy percent of my wardrobe is black, and it’s safe to say I wear a cardigan over a tank top with jeans six days a week. Meeting in the middle is a pretty far walk for either of us.
So why do I care what Ronia wears? I know that there are some parents who feel like they have neither the time nor energy to police their kids’ fashion choices, and I salute them. But I find that I really do care what Ronia wears. Partially it’s because I know that I get judged based on how she looks and behaves. Though I did not give birth to Ronia, and only married her father a few weeks ago, when people see us together, the assumption is that I’m her mother, and that I’m responsible for making her look neat, clean, appropriate, and fashionable. I’ll never forget the time that another parent came up to me at synagogue, looked at Ronia, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Wow, you guys let her dress herself?” That stings. And it implies bad mothering on my part, for allowing her out and about in one of her more creative ensembles. Read the rest of this entry →