In general, I take my kids to shop at several clothing stores geared completely for kids and tweens, like Children's Place in Lake Forest Mall or Justice in the Washingtonian Center. The clothes are relatively inexpensive in these places, and they like the styles they find there – all full of peace signs and neon colors.
This year, though, we have finally reached the point with my older daughter when we have to jump to the juniors section, and it hurts!
The main reason for the pain was the moment of expected self-realization in every young girl's life.
It's March. The bathing suits for summer have hit the stores with a vengeance.
In years past, the suit was never a real issue. Whatever she chose, I usually went with it. She was, and still is, healthy and fit. She was a kid. She didn't like two pieces because she couldn't dive in them -- great from the mom's standpoint. She would try on two or three, and they would fit fine.
She didn't seem to notice her own body inside the suit. If it was small on her, I would hand her the larger size, no worries or complaints from her or me, and everyone was happy. The only argument was usually about how many to buy. She, of course, had this idea that money was no object, and she could walk out the door with all of the suits she liked.
But this year was different. I thought we could get away with one more year in the kiddie clothing store. Yes, her hips are beginning to look more like a woman and less like a girl. But bathing suit material stretches, doesn't it? Maybe I was simply in denial. Maybe it was a sheer case of bad mothering.
She chose three suits, all technically in her size. She went into the dressing room, excited about the fun pattern on the suit and that's when it hit her, like a crash of lightning right on her head. I heard a slight whimper from behind the dressing room curtain, then her slumping onto the little particle board seat glued to the side of the wall, like a half-mast shelf.
“I'm fa-at!” she cried with a long, drawn-out vowel-filled howl.
“Oh, honey, you are not fat!” I rushed in to comfort her. “These are kiddie suits. You're growing up. That's all.”
“But look! My stomach is poking out!”
“No, it's the pattern on the suit across your tummy. It's an optical illusion,” I tried to reassure her.
“But I love this suit!! I'll never find another one that I love as much as this one!”
“Sure you will. We have to go to the department store," I said. "We'll find something better there. Something you can really swim in, that fits you better.”
“But I don't like those styles!” she wailed. “They are not cute! And the light in here makes my skin look yellow!”
“It's OK. We'll try something else, sweetie. Let's go to Target, down the street.”
There was a beat of silence as she stood and stared into the mirror.
She sighed dramatically, “My thighs look huge!”
Anyone who thinks starting your menstrual cycle is the official advancement into womanhood knows nothing about the true nature of the American Woman. If you think it's about sudden attraction to the male gender – think again. This moment in the dressing room at Justice in Washingtonian Center, in March of 2011, when my daughter cursed the fashion industry, bad lighting of a dressing room and her thighs, was the moment my eldest became a woman.
Sniff. I'm so proud.