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Tween Watch: The Dreaded 5 Words

Up til very recently, Alex was the sort of kid who would pull on whatever sweats or jeans were on the top of the stack in her drawer, add a T-shirt, and be done with it.

Yesterday, she took longer than usual getting dressed and came down with a very cool outfit—an ivory eyelet Old Navy dress from last summer, over black leggings and long-sleeved black T, with three or four long necklaces and hoop earrings. She’d clearly given it a lot of thought, and she looked great, hip and stylish. My first thought: Wow! Wish I had your eye! My second: Who are you and what have you done with my kid???

Nice that she’s putting more thought into what she’s wearing, but this morning I remembered the annoying flip side of that. She was taking a REALLY long time upstairs, so long that I wasn’t sure I’d get her to school and myself to the train on time. And then she uttered the dreaded five words: “I have nothing to wear.”

Now it begins.

Alex has plenty of clothes, of course—stuff that we’ve gotten her, that she’s gotten herself with birthday gift cards, and tons that’s been passed down from her big sister and older cousins. Plus the things she borrows from her sister’s closet (well, Kate doesn’t actually use her closet—she uses the floor). But now Alex is in that hypersensitive, under-confident tween stage in which she needs to measure up to some ideal she’s carrying around in her head. And none of the clothes she owns, I’m sure, will measure up.

When Kate went through this stage, I remember my annoyance (“Nothing to wear?! Look at all these things! Don’t you know how lucky you are? There are plenty of kids with no clothes at all blah blah blah…Don’t you appreciate blah blah blah…” ). This time, I want to keep my eye on the bigger picture, remember what’s really behind what she’s saying, and cut her some slack. (Yeah, I can hear you saying: Good luck with that. I’ll let you know how I do.)

(And, note to self: I should probably stop saying, “Damn, I have nothing to wear” when I look in my closet. At least when she’s around.)