by MIA FREEDMAN
From the moment I gave birth to a daughter, I knew this day would come. The conversation was crucial and it would have been negligent of me to avoid it. I just didn’t expect to be having it so soon; she’s only five!
“Darling,” I began gently one day, crouching down to her level to make eye contact as I held her hands tenderly in mine. “Leggings are not pants.”
As her face registered confusion, I seized the opportunity to continue. “You see, leggings are more like tights,” I explained carefully. “That means they’re different to jeans or pants. We don’t wear them the same way.” She regarded me defiantly. “But I like these leggings!” she protested. I remained calm, maintained eye contact, and spoke kindly yet firmly. “So do I darling, your leggings are lovely. They just need a skirt over the top of them. Or a dress. Heck, even a longer t-shirt.”
Reluctantly, she complied and I felt some small satisfaction in the same way I do on the rare occasion any child of mine eats a green vegetable. Mother Of The Year.
Afterwards though, I thought about our conversation and wondered if I’d made a mistake. Parenting is made up of a million doubtful moments like this and mostly, only your child’s future therapist will be able to say how badly you screwed up.
Was it wrong to impose my views about leggings onto my daughter? Had I crushed her little spirit? Or was it my duty as a parent, hell as a woman, to pass on the single fashion philosophy I live by?
Because surely that’s what parents do. Imprint our values onto our children in big ways and small. Share our wisdom. For example, in our household we teach our kids that gay people should be able to marry and that hopefully it will soon happen in Australia. We teach them to have compassion towards asylum seekers no matter how they arrive here and that NO child should ever be sent to live behind razor wire. We teach them to recycle and to turn off lights and taps to help the environment. Since they’re all values my husband and I hold dear, how could we raise our children any other way?
Still, the leggings conversation started me thinking about which beliefs are OK to project and which should be left up to them to figure out for themselves.
But beyond those kinds of things, it can become murky. Is believing in a particular religion different to passing on your beliefs about vegetarianism or feminism? What about footy teams? Political parties?
Perhaps it comes down to how you view children in relation to parents. Are they simply an extension of mum and dad, like whacking a sun deck extension on the back of the house?
There are many parents whose boundaries between themselves and their kids are blurred, naming their sons John Jr, dressing their daughters in mini-me outfits or living their lives vicariously from the wings or the sidelines while their kids are pushed to achieve what Mum and Dad never could.