June 6 11

When I was pregnant for the first time, I wanted a wee baby girl in the worst way. Because of this deep dark secret that I dared not speak out loud, we chose to not find out the sex of our little growing bean. Even though I felt it in my soul that she was of the female variety, it wasn’t until Dr. Rosenthal pulled her out and said, “It’s a girl!” in a very cinematic-like fashion, that I allowed myself to celebrate that I had a little girl. I was the mother of a very tiny, very lovely-smelling built-in bff.

Her arrival meant an explosion of dresses and skirts and wee pink Burberry sweaters and ladybug-laden blankets and trumpette socks and mary janes and hair bows. She was my very own doll to dress up. I had dreamed of this moment ever since I was a little girl, dressing and undressing my baby dolls in whatever I pleased.

And I did. I dressed her up.

And it was wonderful until one day I woke up and she was ten years old and she was content to go to school wearing nothing but a black camisole and a pair of black leggings and I cried at the loss of my baby girl. My baby had turned into A PRETEEN, and a hormonal one at that. And do you know what hormonal teenagers hate to do? Let their mommies dress them.

“But I have my own style, Mama. I don’t want to have YOUR style. I would never want you to wear your mom’s style.”

“I’m TEN. I’m not TWO.”

“Dresses are so uncool in the 4th grade.”

“But all of my friends wear leggings as pants.”

Now, I’ll be honest here. I’m a battle picker, and I have allowed my children to freedom to wear pretty much whatever they have wanted, provided it was mostly decent. I supported Emily’s “I only wear soft pants” stage and I supported Isabella’s “Anti-waistband” movement. I even let my daughter walk around sporting a Chicago Bears t-shirt, even on FOOTBALL SUNDAYS.

But lately, Emily’s style has taken a turn for something I am just no longer comfortable with. She is ten. Her body is changing. I don’t think she should be walking around wearing leggings as pants. I don’t believe that the more tight-fitted a shirt, the better it looks. I like that Emily has a personal style, and 80% of the time, she nails it and she dresses better than I could ever hope to. But then there are those days I come home from work and the first thing out of my mouth is


This, unfortunately, is something I regret saying the moment it slips out from my mouth. I want to catch all of the words and just throw them back down my gullet.

“Are you saying I’m fat?”

This, unfortunately, is a road my ten-year-old is going down. The fat question. She is not fat. I don’t think she’s fat. I don’t think that she thinks she’s fat. But the fact that this is her go-to accusation kills me and reminds me that I must tread very lightly around my sensitive little girl. Because she’s little, but she’s really grown up.

And my words are powerful. With a preteen, the same words can be used for good and for bad, depending on the situation. I need to be careful to try to predict how she is going to take those words. So tonight when I came home from work, I was careful with my words. I sat her down and told her that she is amazing. She is wonderful. I am so thankful that she has such a good sense of who she is and such a tremendous sense of style. And if she is willing to stop wearing leggings as pants and skin-tight camisoles as shirts, then I am willing to allow her to wear anything else in her closet she’d like to wear.

I officially gave up my dress up rights.

She threw her arms around me and said “DEAL. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU, MAMA.”

So, I guess I did something right tonight.

And I guess I did something right ten years ago. I made one of the most amazing GIRLS to ever be. I hope she always knows it. I just hope she never wears leggings as pants again.

  1. That rule doesn’t only apply to her, either. If you’re not a kindergartner, you should not wear leggings as pants. It should be a law.

    *Unless* you like to wear shirts that come down to your knees. But then we’re back into tights territory and you’re okay.


    alimartell replied on

    Oh yes. I know. I have ranted about this before.


    Comment by Jessica on June 7, 2011
  2. Congratulations! Don’t take this as a loss for you, but a win for both of you. She will now feel comfortable dressing, knowing she gets to be herself AND its Mama-approved. She just doesn’t need to let her friends know that.


    alimartell replied on

    YES! I am fairly certain this will be a good compromise. And it certainly will be nice not to have to hear her whining and crying all the livelong day about it. Hee.


    Comment by zeghsy on June 7, 2011
  3. While having the discussion is important so she understands your position and rationale, we must be our children’s parents first and their best friends second (or further down the list depending on your parenting style). As parents we have the ability to not buy clothes that we consider inappropriate, or not hand over the cash for them to buy freely, or remove from their closets once appropriate and now not so items. The comments about her willingness to do this or that made me wonder what would have happened had she not willingly agreed with you and came around. And if not on this issue, the next one.


    alimartell replied on

    I’m not EXACTLY sure what you are trying to say here…

    but she has camisoles in her closet because they are perfectly appropriate to wear UNDERNEATH sweaters and cardigans.
    And she has leggings in her closet because they are perfectly appropriate to wear underneath skirts and short dresses and tunics.

    It was the WAY she was wearing them that was the problem…not the fact that she wears them at all.

    Are you saying I shouldn’t buy these things?


    Brittany replied on

    Yeah, I have to agree, this comment perplexes me as well. I mean, do you HAVE children?

    This isn’t Ali buying cans whipped cream and her daughter secretly getting high in her bedroom…do kids still do that? I totally can’t keep up with all the ridiculous things children are inhaling.

    But, my point is, this is clothing. Clothing that when worn as intended, is perfectly acceptable and flattering and beautiful. It’s teaching her daughter ways to grow and extend her personal style, but to do it in a way that’s not only flattering, but appropriate. And that is something a 10 year old may not realize yet. Which is NORMAL.

    This is a point in parenting that I think all mothers have with their kids.

    Ali is doing exactly the right thing, and I think that maneuvering this phase is bound to be full of trial and error. This post is an account of Ali learning the best way to approach this issue with class and empathy. But, she isn’t bypassing the role of being a mom in favor of being a best friend, she is building trust with her daughter.

    I am so thankful to have that bond with my mother. I trust her inexplicably when it comes to her honesty in my choices, both in life and in fashion. And, I can’t wait to have that same relationship with my daughter, who currently spends her days in princess dresses and rainboots.

    And, Ali is going to have that same trust and bond with Emily.


    Katherine replied on

    Good lord, relax everyone. I have 5 girls for goodness sakes and was looking at this as an evolution of the battle picking and how after a certain age clothes, for some parents, does need to become a battle worth picking. I was merely commenting on the willingness part and what happens next if she weren’t so mature as to not only understand the conversation but come around on her own to get it and embrace the compromise. Not sure where I said don’t buy her camisoles. The last line was in reference to hoping she does not wear leggings as pants again but if you make that rule – and beyond it both compromise and agree to it- do you just hope she doesn’t and if she does oh well? Again, back to revisiting which battles now at a different age are worthy of being picked and how to fight them. I’m sorry I commented in the first place.


    alimartell replied on

    I’m fairly certain that the idea came from this part of your comment:

    As parents we have the ability to not buy clothes that we consider inappropriate, or not hand over the cash for them to buy freely, or remove from their closets once appropriate and now not so items.

    I apologize if what you wrote was taken the wrong way. But if you re-read your comment…it REALLY looks like you are telling me that I am behaving as my child’s friend and NOT as her parent. And that clearly even though I have temporarily solved this problem…you WONDER about what will happen the next time.

    Again…if this isn’t what you meant, I apologize. But, again, if you re-read your comment…that’s EXACTLY how it looks.

    chatty cricket replied on

    I don’t understand how this insinuates that Ali wasn’t being a “parent first” ?

    There’s nothing wrong with, and frankly, a LOT right about, teaching your child to think for herself. Kids obviously don’t understand things from every angle, and Ali is helping her daughter recognize that camis and leggings aren’t appropriate as stand alone clothing. How come that needs to be a battle instead of a frank and sympathetic discussion?

    I honestly think You handled this BEAUTIFULLY, Ali. You’re not taking away her independence. You didn’t let it turn into a battle. You recognized her need to grow, but are helping her understand how to make appropriate choices and I just see this as a win all around.

    Katherine, I appreciate your point here (I REALLY DO), but I think you’re off the mark on this one.


    Comment by Katherine on June 7, 2011
  4. ooooooh kay. I HAVE a kindergartener. And she’s wee tiny. Like a little fairy. And I STILL won’t let her wear leggings as pants, because that’s just WRONG.

    When she first started preschool, I went out and bought her a bunch of pants (she was dress opposed at the time) and a bunch of shirts that all matched perfectly fine. She was allowed to pick out the shirt she wanted to wear AND the pants and it always worked and was almost never a fight (sometimes things were legitimately too small. Like, no child, you can’t wear your 18-24 month size jeans because you are THREE YEARS OLD). The same rule applies now that she loves to wear dresses and skirts- everything basically goes together and she can dress herself, but I have FINAL approval.

    It works, because she’s in Kindergarten.

    But I’m hoping that by allowing her to have a first go, she’ll start to develop a style that’s still appropriate, and we’ll adjust accordingly for age. And then I won’t HAVE to be the clothes police because MY GOD, I just don’t want to fight that battle when she’s older.


    Comment by chatty cricket on June 7, 2011
  5. My battle with my Mom growing up had to do with wearing short sleeves in the winter. As in, I was not allowed. I found this ridiculous because my school had HEAT and she thought it was ridiculous to wear short sleeves in the winter JUST IN CASE. Those battles were epic. Good for you for finding a middle ground.


    Comment by Daisy on June 7, 2011
  6. I think you handled everything quite appropriately. Like you said, we have to pick our battles. Continuing to battle over clothes could possibly make her rebel even more. Teacher her about appropriate choices is more important than saying “you can’t wear that”. She’s just trying to figure out what she likes. Next week it’ll be something different! :)


    Comment by Jennifer Gilbert on June 7, 2011
  7. I have two girls ages 12 and 10 and know all to well of this battle of which you speak. It ebbs & flows – as most of this parenting game. I think you came up with a very good compromise and that in itself is a good lesson to teach.


    Comment by Barb on June 7, 2011
  8. Ah, the clothing battle. It’s esecially frought in my house with my 8 year old step daughter. Her mom doesn’t think twice about sending her out into public in a 2 sizes too small skirt and a TIGHT cami as an outfit. I’m all about expression through fashion, but not while dressing like a 20 year old trying to sneak into the club.

    She also bought her a training bra (not needed yet!) without a single discussion on what it means to have a changing body. It’s not that I’m blind to what’s coming, I just feel SO strongly about body awareness issues and being proud of who you are and talking honestly about these things. Which doesn’t happen.

    Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated!


    Comment by Dawn K. on June 7, 2011
  9. I grew up in a household where I wore what my mother laid out for me until I graduated high school. NO JOKE! Everything was a battle and to this day I am extremely self conscious about what I wear. I need a second opinion on everything. Do I blame her for how she handled things? No, but I sure wish she would have handled it like you did. I think the way you handled the situation was great! :)


    Comment by Shannon on June 7, 2011
  10. I teach grade 3. There are a lot of girls in the class who have reached the stage of “it is no longer acceptable to wear leggings as pants”. But they do. There is a dress code, but it does not include leggings so I cannot voice an opinion. Besides, I know that I would be hurting feelings if I did and it is not my place.


    Comment by Heather on June 7, 2011
  11. I don’t even know what to say, seeing as the comments went in a whole different direction.

    Anyway, Emily is beautiful and amazing, as are you. I’ve been around you all and I KNOW she knows how much you love her and want the best for her. Kids are always going to try to push their boundaries. And as a parent, you push back. You pick your battles, like you said.

    You’re awesome and doing a fantastic job. The end.


    alimartell replied on

    Isn’t that always the way with comments?? Ha!


    Kristabella replied on

    I started reading the comments and forgot what the post was about! Ha!


    Comment by Kristabella on June 7, 2011
  12. PSA: Do not feed the trolls!


    Comment by Gav on June 7, 2011
  13. I love your blog (don’t think I’ve ever posted before) and your posts about clothing battles with your daughter. I have the same issues with my 9-year-old who is still in size 6 clothes. She is really having an issue with how babyish clothes available in her size are.


    Comment by Laurie on June 7, 2011
  14. I love when you write about this stuff. Morgan is nine. So I’m a little behind you. But she and Emily are so alike in some ways. It’s good for me to see how you handled something.


    Comment by Issa on June 7, 2011
  15. I have a rule with Kaylie (my nearly-10-year-old) that something has to be at least long enough to cover her rear end if she’s to be wearing leggings. But, thankfully, she’s still at the stage where she likes my input in what she wears. I’m not looking forward to the clothing fights


    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on June 7, 2011
  16. I am so thrilled you guys found a happy medium.

    I would like access to both of your closets for inspiration some day.


    Comment by Meghan on June 7, 2011
  17. What I know is that when my mother controlled what I wore or what I ate or what I put on my face – what was when I’d sneak around and disobey and steal. I try to remember this with my kids who I am sure will be much better behaved than me. But you never know. I totally concurr with your approach.


    Comment by Emma on June 7, 2011
  18. Typo! THAT was when I’d sneak around. Anyway, you know what I’m saying.


    Comment by Emma on June 7, 2011
  19. Sigh. Easty’s going to be 4 on this month & we have already had meltdowns about what she wants to wear. Glad you are forging the way for me. Teach me Ali! :)


    Comment by Naomi Jesson on June 8, 2011
  20. I see my sister going through this with her 12-year old. The trick – and she handles this very well, as it seems do you – is to not dissolve into character-defamation.
    No kid wants to feel controlled by their parents. I shudder to think of my life in a few years when I have two preteen girls.


    Comment by karengreeners on June 8, 2011
  21. I think it’s amazing how well you manage to be a parent and a friend to Emily. That balance is SO hard to achieve, especially with girls. I can only hope that I do this well with Katelyn.

    Emily is so lucky to have you as her mom, she is an amazing little girl.


    Comment by Jen on June 8, 2011
  22. Well these comments have been interesting.


    Comment by Sensibly Sassy on June 9, 2011
  23. We have the leggings are not pants rule, too.

    It has nothing to do with fat or not fat, it’s as simple as leggings ARE NOT pants! They just don’t cover enough, they are to wear in place of tights or with a tunic. Same thing with the bicycle shorts in summer – they are so you can wear dresses without worrying about showing your undies an don’t have to be hampered by your clothing choice. They are NOT shorts.

    You want to mix stripes and plaid, or layer things or whatever, fine. There is lots of room for self-expression left open. I really think it can be as simple as requiring clothes to be temperature-appropriate and to function as they are meant to, with layering pieces having something over them in this case, and then we’re good.


    Comment by kittenpie on June 11, 2011
  24. I am just curious as to why Emily would be allowed to wear a camisole as a shirt at school. Or is it more like a tank top? I thought most schools were like mine and had a dress code that doesn’t allow students to wear shirts with very thin straps. Is she still at the Jewish Day School? I would think the dress code there would be even more strict.


    Comment by Anna on June 12, 2011

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