I did something the other day that I’ve never done before.
I put the kibosh on a shirt my 5-year-old daughter picked out.
We were at Target, and we were doing a little light shopping. We picked out some Valentine cards and treats for their parties on Friday, and I thought it would be nice if they each got a special little shirt, too.
In general, I let my kids pick things for themselves. Usually I give them two or three choices, just to make it easy. On this particular day, Dan was with Flora in the ‘girls’ section — not toddlers, which is where I was with Kate.
When I found them, Flora was holding a purple t-shirt, in her size, that said “YUM” on it.
And I said, “No, you can’t get that.”
Dan looked surprised; Flora was downright distressed. “But it’s my size,” she protested. “I know,” I answered, “but you have to pick another shirt in your size.”
I didn’t make a huge deal about it, but I did take it away from her and put it back. We picked out another shirt, and then Dan saw the Paul Frank shirts, and picked one of those out for her. We also got matching leggings.
I didn’t like the shirt because the message I saw on it was that my daughter was a consumable. That she was the something yummy.
And I am intensely disturbed by that.
I don’t want my daughter to be seen that way — especially when she’s only 5 years old. I imagine I’ll feel the same way regardless of her age. And I certainly don’t want my daughter to see herself as something to be consumed, either.
Am I making too big a deal of this? Would you have let your daughter pick out and wear this shirt? Where and when do we decide what is appropriate, and when do we let our children (not just girls) decide?
Further, how do we send the ‘right’ messages to our children? In other words, how do I enable Flora to either not pick the Yum shirt because of the message, or to pick it because she embodies the IRONY of the message? (Admittedly, not when she is 5 years old. She grasped sarcasm pretty quickly; I’m hoping she gets irony at least by the time she’s a teen.) Or is that latter point too much to ask? At any age?