Kids, Clothes, and Image

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-old’s 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.

Written by Rachel Paxton.


2 Comments on "Kids, Clothes, and Image"

  1. Thank you for this wonderful site! it has helped me to know I’m not alone with my teen and to explain to them that money’s short is hard to do. My teen always says ya I know no money! it hurts but I know she will understand with the help of God, her dad and I helping her through our struggle and as well her and her sisters. Money isn’t everything but to them it seems so important to have an identity. Amazing children I thought figured that out when they got older but now days it’s so important to establish an identity and hopefully I will be able to mold her character into one she will be proud of and I can smile and not be so stressed out LOL Thanks again

  2. Thank you for that wonderful article. I completely understand how you feel. As a mother of 7 children ( four now grown, one going off to college and an 11 and 14 year old at home ) money is always tight. My husband is disabled and I have a small home business that helps me make ends meet. Up until my husband became ill we worked very hard and always had extra money to spend . We ate at restaurants, vacationed etc. The recession also did us in financially until we lost almost everything, no credit cards left, no savings etc. We basically live on a month to month basis. My own health declined due to the stress of it and menopause and I too spent a year soul searching how to reinvent myself so I could make MORE money to spend.
    In these past few months my mom passed away and I spent some time in Florida with my dad who has CHF. I took two months off my life to tend to her till her passing and to figure out what to do with dad. We did not work. We lived off of the rest of our savings until they dwindled away. When the funds got low we decided to still find ways to have fun. We went to Florida for two weeks and toured the GoodWills and walked on the beach and went to the park or sat in a hammock or rode a bike. I realized that we had more fun in those two weeks. I spent more time with my children than I normally do since I work from morn till night and it was a lesson in the important things in life.
    Since our return my nice normal 11 year old who is a very creative child and dresses in a very colorful fashion has changed dramatically. She is very concerned with what she wears and what stores it comes from eg the brand name. I know she is having trouble in school with the other girls who make comments on her style and I tell her is ok to be different. She does not have to be a clone of everyone else. My son who is 14 feels the need for 10 different sneakers too because the other kids do the same.
    I wonder what the parents of these kids do for a living that they can afford all these 150 dollars EACH sneakers. We live in NY and these children are so concerned with their appearance its ridiculous. The kids in Florida walk around in Good Will attire and there is not that finger pointing. I told my 11 year old. Did we not have fun in Florida when we ran out of money? She said Yes. I said and how many kids did you see in GoodWill picking out wardrobes? Did you not pick up a few things yourself?
    She said Yes. I told her ” Grace , people are not defined by what you wear but by who you are and you are awesome just the way you are”.
    She smiled……Walked away…….and I felt like I had finally gotten through to her.
    Well,,,,,,,,,,, the next school day came around and she informed me she needed new glasses because those frames were just too big and not in style???????????????

    Lost round one……..wish me luck on round too……aghhhhhhhhhhh!

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