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Kids, Clothes, and Image

Rachel Paxton


It was bound to happen. I knew sooner or later my daughter would come to me and announce that everything we have worked so hard to give her is basically not good enough for her. She went through her closet and counted six items of clothing she has that were bought brand new. Those clothes didn't count though, she said, because they were presents from other people. Never mind that most of her clothes look brand new and have the same brand names on them that her friends wear.

Several weeks earlier and after a lot of searching we had finally found the coat and shoes she had been wanting at our favorite consignment store for a total of about $12 (she was thrilled at the time). The coat looks like it's never been worn and probably cost about $50 brand new. But that's not good enough, she says. When her friends ask her where she got a certain shirt, pair of shoes, etc., it goes completely against her moral upbringing to lie (even though I told her to). She feels compelled to tell them she bought her clothes at the consignment store or thrift store. I said, "If your shirt says GAP on it, wouldn't you think your friends would assume you got it at the GAP?" She didn't think that was very funny. I had a hard time believing that these 10-year- olds were really spending that much time analyzing each other's clothing and social status. Then, if that weren't enough, she announced that the fact that we live in a "trailer park," as she calls it, is totally demoralizing to her. People "with money" don't live in trailer parks. That was the last straw.

This child is normally a very loving, considerate daughter. She prides in finding a "good deal" when shopping and is very good at trying to find ways to save money. I knew that something had just gotten into her that day and I had had enough. My feelings were hurt, because my husband and I have worked very hard to buy our own home and be able to afford some of the things we really want. That includes trying to find our daughter some of the things she want, at affordable prices. She has never really had to do without, even when I was a young, broke, single mother. Her words cut right through me. I knew that I should have just ignored her and not let her get to me, but my first thoughts to myself were "we can't help it if we're broke." I told her how hurt I was, and she went to her room and I went to mine.

I thought about it for a while and reminded myself that I have also worked very hard to get over the mindset of thinking we're "broke." Our bills get paid. We just don't have a lot of money left over to do some of the things we'd like to do. The last few months I've been changing image of myself and trying to figure out who I really am and what I'm really about. I finally realized that I didn't need money to be happy. I started to teach myself how to play the guitar, I started visiting the library more and reading a lot more, and I taught myself how to make homemade bread. I've really never been happier in my life. The "lack" of money hasn't really been on my mind lately because I have found ways to nourish my soul that don't require money. Her words, however, brought out old feelings that have never completely gone away. I started to feel better, though, and silently forgave her, even though I was still hurt. A few minutes later she came into my room and just looked at me. I said, "you know, what you said really hurt me." She burst into tears and came over and sat in my lap. She kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She told me how grateful she is for all the things she has. I said, "Do you really think that your friends care where you buy your clothes?" Amazingly, she said, "I don't know, I think it's just me." I couldn't believe it.

Suddenly I realized that she was going through the same thing I was. She was trying to create an "image" for herself. I told her she needs to not lose sight of her other interests, like her passion for reading and writing, and that she needs to have friends who share her interests. I told her that I want her to learn some of the lessons now that some people never learn, even after they're grown up—like what the important things in life really are. And money isn't one of them.



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Originally published at Suite 101. Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at http://www.creativehomemaking.com.



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