I recorded in my daughter's journal around age two that she had begun to pick out her own clothes.
I am so glad I thought to write it down. Six years later, I wouldn't have believed it without the proof. I mean, come on, two years old? I remember one Sunday morning she picked out a yellow dress and put her white and pink Cardinals jersey over it. I let her wear it to church, and she was a hit among the Cards' fans.
I decided pretty early on that of the many battles of parenting I would have to choose, what my daughter wore would not be one of them. As long as she was appropriately covered and had a jacket in case of cooler weather, I was going to let her match or unmatch to her heart's content. Her clothing choices, I decided, would not be a reflection of me. But me letting her feel a sense of control and a sense of self-expression would be a reflection of my parenting style.
One day in kindergarten, she said, “Mom look, I'm matching.” Cadence showed me her two floral prints. I paused and asked her to explain in what way she matched. “They're both flowers. So they match.” I couldn't argue with this logic.
In the past year I have noticed that she really has an eye for style, aesthetic, and what looks good. I began letting her choose my jewelry in the mornings before work. I watched her careful consideration. Her wheels were turning. She was contemplating what would look best. Almost without exception, her choices were better than mine. It was a joy to interact with her in these quick moments of our busy mornings, and it was satisfying to see her confidence grow as I encouraged her stylings.
From jewelry selections I moved on to asking for her help in picking out my wardrobe. Again, she dazzled me with her eye and her choices.
As I drafted my 4040 list, I worked to find activities that she and I could do together. I decided to add #27 “Create a Look Book of Cadence's styles.” I was already capturing morning's wardrobes when she selected them, why not make a book of these photos as she created them throughout the 4040 celebration?
Enter my friend, Christa. She's a gifted photographer who wants to expand her portfolio, so she asked me if she could photograph Cadence and I doing some activity together for a “Slice-of-Life” photo shoot. I asked if she would photograph Cadence coming up with outfits for me to try on, and she agreed.
One Sunday afternoon a few hours before Cadence's long-anticipated Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter Dance, Christa came over. I laid out my closet's contents on the bed and the sofa.
Our instructions for Cadence were simple: Pretend you're a fashion designer and create outfits for me to try on.
I was not prepared for what followed. Cadence studied my body like an artist. She clasped her hands together making a steeple of her index fingers and pressed them to her lips in contemplation. “Do you want to know the theme?” she asked. I told her I wanted to be surprised. She began gathering clothes from the bed. At one point she looked perplexed. I said, “What are you looking for?”
“I need a hat. For a cowgirl. The theme is cowgirl,” she answered.
I offered her a straw hat. “Try it on,” she commanded.
“No, that's not the look I'm going for.” Seriously. My almost eight-year-old said those exact words.
I brainstormed with her and she agreed to the black hat with a bill.
The next 75 minutes went like this. Sometimes she'd whisper her theme to Christa, so that she could bounce off ideas to someone. I was always surprised.
In addition to a cowgirl (complete with a pink bandana because you know, “Cowgirls have to wipe their dirty hands on something...”), Cadence transformed me into a teacher and told me how to pose.
A "zoo person"
A bridesmaid (in the dress my paternal grandmother wore to my parents' wedding)
A mechanic (like my novel's character, Astrid)
And president (inspired by a top hat akin to what President Lincoln might have worn.)
She also made a sign that read “Vote for her.” And an arrow pointing to me. I might start calling her Chelsea Clinton!
I was most surprised by her confidence and how comfortable she was in this starring role. She was creative and thoughtful about all of her choices including when she dressed me as “someone at school who you go to if you have a problem and don't know how to solve it.” Score a point for the school counselor!
I have no idea if this fashion thing will stick or not. Honestly, I don't care. What I do care about is that I am able to create an environment where exploration of who she wants to become and what career path she wants to pursue is a fun, creative, and safe experience.
I like knowing that I am working hard to be a safe person she can bounce off ideas with, to think things out loud with, and that she knows that I trust her to know and trust herself.
These are a few other favorite moments that Christa captured beautifully. I created a tangible look book from Walgreen's using a mother's day sales code and some rewards money. I can't wait to display it in my living room.