parent opinion

'I let my daughter wear pyjamas wherever she wants. Here's why.'

This past year, we celebrated our daughter’s fifth birthday. From a delicate blob of flesh to an attitude-giving, cart-wheeling kindergartener - she’s been simultaneously testing my patience and expanding my capacity to love for half a decade.

We keep her birthdays very simple. We usually have it at my parents' house and all her cousins will come over for pizza, sushi and ice cream cake. No clowns, magicians, or bouncy castles. That’s it. Kids tend to find ways to entertain themselves when given the time, space and opportunity.

And every year when we arrive, my mum and I will have the same conversation. She’ll glance at my daughter’s outfit and ask, "So what is she changing into for her birthday?"

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I’ll respond flatly, "She’s not changing into anything. She chose to wear this and that’s what she’s wearing."

She’ll shake her head, give a disapproving look and her typical passive-aggressive comment, "I guess if that’s what she likes. I just thought most birthday girls would want to wear a dress. It’s a special time to celebrate, so it’s nice to dress up for the occasion. But of course, I understand how parents want to give their kids freedom nowadays."

I’ll roll my eyes.

If someone were to go through the photos of my daughter’s birthday parties over the years, they’ll notice she’s always wearing cotton pyjama shorts and a t-shirt. She won’t be in a puffy dress, ruffled skirt, or frilly tops. It’s like my mum pretends to forget every year, hoping things will change.

I’ve never been one of those parents who dress their kids up. As babies, they lived in sleepers and onesies. Efficiency, function and convenience were the top priorities. Zippers over buttons. It’s much easier to remember to pack a one-piece than multiple pieces.

I didn’t need to worry about ruining clothes when they have a nappy blow-out or puke all over themselves. I could throw whatever was soiled into the wash, set it and forget it with no separating, sorting or special treatment.

I remember there was one time when I was able to wrestle my daughter into a dress, sheer stockings and a pair of shiny black Mary Janes. She was two years old at the time and within an hour, her shoes were off, her dress was stained with soy sauce and her stockings were snagged.

As she got older, I started letting her choose what to wear. And 90 per cent of the time, she’d keep her pyjamas on, throw on a jacket and off we went. Unless her outfit wasn’t appropriate for the weather, for instance, sandals when it’s snowing, I never ask her to change. 

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Despite some odd looks and comments, here’s why I let my daughter wear whatever she wants wherever we go.

It allows her to confidently express herself.

Fashion is an art and how she dresses is an expression of who she is. I don’t want to stifle her creativity by enforcing specific rules around this. For instance, telling her that a particular colour won’t go with a certain pattern or that socks with those sandals "doesn’t work".

I want to give her the autonomy to choose what she wants to wear and how she wants to look so that she feels confident making those decisions. 

Plus, it inspires her to have fun with it, create her own style and try new and different things.

It allows her to learn how to be independent.

Once she could physically dress herself, I wanted her to continue practicing. 

From buttoning up her pants to putting her shoes on, she’s learning how to take care of herself. As I encourage her to do these things on her own, she’s building independence and developing skills for when she's older.

She’ll sometimes struggle with her zipper and whine for me to help. But then I’ll reassure her that she’s done it many times before and I’ll patiently wait until she figures it out. 

It can be frustrating for me as I resist the urge to step in and do it for her; however, the look on her face when she gets it is often worth the few seconds of frustration.

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It allows her to build decision-making skills.

By allowing her to experiment with trial and error, she’s learning what type of clothing is appropriate to wear depending on the situation.

The other day, I mentioned that we were heading to the park. She quickly runs to her room and within a few minutes, she comes downstairs wearing the most fancy dress in her closet. She wore shorts underneath and sneakers to pair with her look. It took me by surprise but she was happy with her decision. 

I didn’t make a single comment that questioned her outfit choice.

We get to the park and she struggles to climb onto the slide and the swings. She’s frustrated because she can’t play freely. She wants to take off her dress, but she knows she made the decision to wear the dress and has to stick with it. So without me uttering a single word, the next time we head to the park, she went back to her shorts and t-shirt.

I know one day, she’ll be exposed to trends and start to experiment with other ways to express herself. 

From make-up to crop tops, and piercings to tattoos - I’m confident she will make those decisions for herself and not for anyone else. 

With that said, I might just wear pyjamas for my next birthday party.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her website or podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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