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Yep, I Let My Toddler Dress Like That

My mom loved dolls. Madame Alexander dolls, collections of dolls from different countries—she even had a figure made of prunes.

Except for getting caught up in the Cabbage Patch craze of the mid-'80s, I was never really a doll person. But when I learned I was having a daughter, I admit my mind went straight to outfits.

I bought little dresses and cardigans, little tights and shiny black shoes. Nothing in pink, of course—all blues and yellows and reds. And for a time, my little daughter was my little doll, wearing everything I wanted her to wear without complaint.

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But somewhere, when she was not quite 2, as we were browsing the toddler section of our local department store, things changed. I held up a pair of adorable red plaid leggings—my punk-rock girl—and my daughter said, from the confines of her stroller, "No."

My daughter has developed her own sense of what I loosely call style. She loves pink, the hotter the pink the better, and frilly skirts and dresses. She loves bling: horn-rimmed sunglasses, more necklaces than her small neck should be able to support, an ever-present tiara.

I no longer shop without my daughter, now 3, because there's no point. She'll make any excuse in the mornings not to wear something she doesn't like, ranging from, "I think that's too small for me" to "I wore that already" to "I'm not allowed to wear that to school."

When my daughter wears a polka-dot tutu and waves her magic wand, she feels good about herself.

I have at least two friends who admit to having sat on their daughters to get them into outfits they don't want to wear, and several more who employ bribery.

Me, I cave. My daughter chooses what she wears, within reason (things must be seasonally appropriate, for example, and categorically suitable for an occasion—the Frozen nightgown she wears to school being an exception).

She wears floor-length party dresses to school and Cinderella dresses to the playground. She carries her "dancing shoes" in her pink sequined purse (plastic heels) that she changes into whenever we arrive places.

And she pays attention to what I wear, too. She recently said to me, "I love you, Mommy. And I really love your red dress."

I've wondered if I'm just lazy. I have two other children to get ready each morning and don't have time for the battle. But also, at my core, I'm still a bit of a rebel myself. I still remember the persecution of childhood (I say this dramatically, but I thought it at the time). The powerlessness. The utter lack of decision-making weight.

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As a toddler, my daughter's means for self-expression are limited, and what she wears is an important part of her establishing and asserting who she is. When my daughter wears a polka-dot tutu and waves her magic wand, she feels good about herself.

I'm sure I'll face battles when she's older over skirts being too short and the like, and I'll exert my authority when I have to. But for now, I'm going to enjoy watching her let her glittery light shine, secretly hoping the pink phase will pass.

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