Since my oldest daughter was born eight years ago, I have avoided taking my children along on shopping trips. I preferred that they not tag along to any store, for any reason, unless absolutely necessary. I, myself, have never been a big shopper, I don’t like to browse and find the concept of window-shopping pointless. I’m efficient and usually know exactly what I need, when I need it and where to find it.
Too many times as a novice mom, what was meant to be a quick trip to the supermarket took a million different turns, with tantrums and emergency diaper issues, followed by desperate pleas for sugar coated cereals and sibling disputes over who got to sit in the cart, push the cart, pick the items from the shelves and so on. I quickly began ordering groceries online or would run out to the store when they were with my husband or at preschool.
Shopping for clothes has always been a solo event as well. I’ve been lucky that my girls still let me pick out their clothes on most days and seem to give very little thought to where their clothes actually come from. Toy stores are avoided at all costs. We opt instead for surprise gifts for earned rewards, minimizing the desperate cries for giant stuffed animals or a must-have-right-now Lego set.
As the girls have gotten older, things have changed a bit. The shopping experience gradually has become a bit less stressful. For some reason, my daughters love grocery shopping and it’s fun (sometimes) to have them help me find items, pick their favorite snacks and push their own carts along. They love stacking items on the conveyor belt and even volunteer to carry a (very light) bag home for me.
Over the past few years, they’ve been receiving money here and there from family members for special occasions. They have piggy banks and wallets and keep close track of how much they have in savings. Lately, my 8 year old is much more interested in spending her ‘own ‘ money when we go out; whether it’s to buy a souvenir for herself, a piece of candy or a gift for a friend.
It’s interesting to see her gain perspective about the cost of things and understand why we can’t always buy everything we want. For a long time, when I tried to explain that some things were just too expensive, she would ask why I don’t just go to the bank and take out more money. For today’s kids, the old adage, ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ should be updated to ‘money doesn’t just shuffle out of ATMS.’
Recently at a sleepover, she borrowed her friend’s pajamas and loved how comfy they were. When her older, more sophisticated 9-year old pal gave her the scoop about Century 21, a shopping mecca of ‘cool’ clothes, she begged us to take her.
For her birthday, she was ecstatic to receive a small gift card for the store. This past weekend we acquiesced to her incessant shopping requests and took her there.
For the past 8 years, the majority of their clothes have been beautiful European hand-me- downs from my meticulous niece, supplemented by essential items from places like the Gap, Target and Children’s Place. The children’s section at Century 21 is divided from infant to 4-year-old, 4-6-years-old and 6-14. I was not prepared for the child-sized Juicy collections or Marc Jacob’s bikini line. The amount of off-the-shoulder, glitter, mesh and graffiti style graphics made me dizzy, as did the price tags what went along with these trendy brand names.
I wasn’t prepared for the fact that somehow, my little girl seems to already be the exact opposite of me as a shopper. For a solid HOUR she hemmed and hawed over different tops, shorts and pants that might be the perfect pick. She tried on what felt like forty different tops, looked in the mirror and loved every single one. She then made sure each item was really comfortable, while contemplating existing coordinates in her closet. All while, I tried my best to carry her growing pile of ‘maybes’ on my arm while keeping my patience and trying my best to grin and bear this new experience.
She just turned eight. I’m in trouble.
As my husband and 5-year-old happily played hide and seek amongst the clothing racks, I watched my big girl debate the merits of short sleeves verses sleeveless, solid versus striped, leggings versus shorts. She kept calculating how much each item cost in relation to how much she had on her gift card and at home. We finally agreed that she could pick her two favorite tops and I would supplement her gift card if necessary. I do have to admit that she did pick out a gift for her sister during her little spree, so it wasn’t ALL about her, but the whole experience still freaked me out. While it was fun to see her so excited about a new experience, and interesting to see what she picked and loved, it was one of those moments that caught me out of nowhere. Once again, I find myself not quite ready for this new phase and already nostalgic for the toy-store pleas and grocery cart rides.
A few years ago, I remember going into a Gap Kids frantically searching the strangely sparse racks for 5T clothes for her. I vividly recall the moment when it struck me that my baby was no longer in the sweet little kid’s section but had moved to the older, more sparkly section across the store. I was as floored that day as I was this past weekend in Century 21. It’s these unexpected moments that throw me for a loop.
As my kids grow at lightening speed, I’m trying my best to keep everything in perspective. Thankfully, she did pick cute, age-appropriate items. She has no body-image issues yet and is completely clueless about brand names. I know those things are all inevitable in some form or another, down the tween to teenage line.
I listen as my best friend tells me how her two year old insists of wearing a princess costume every day, while my teenage niece is into Hollister and Pink. My daughter seems to be the middle of what seems like two extremes. While I long for the tiaras of my baby’s past, I’m curious to see how my daughter’s sense of style develops. I hope I can figure out a way to have a positive influence in helping shape in her, the value of caring how you look, while not becoming consumed by the superficial nature of fashion trends.
All weekend, my daughter alternated between wearing her new tops and carefully folding them in her drawer. On Sunday, sporting one of her new looks, I watched as she giggled happily on a carousel ride. It gave me some solace. Despite her new threads, she’s still a little (well-dressed) kid who finds a carousel ride thrilling.
I know time will keep marching on and these unexpected moments will continue to floor me, but I’m holding out for more carousel rides and less frequent shopping sprees… for just a little longer.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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