I like to think that in my childhood days, I was a bit of a tom-boy. Actually, I like to think that I still am, at least a bit. At any rate, I’m very much a jeans-n-t-shirt sort of person, who avoids make-up and high heels.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t by any means think there’s anything wrong with nice clothes and make-up and making an effort to look good – but it’s never been a priority for me and I’ve never had (or made) the time for it.
Now we have two little girls; and, left to themselves, they’d never wear anything but their shorts and t-shirts. That too, they only ever want one of two or three favourite t-shirts. Since they seem to have very constant and long-term favourites, these favourites are obviously now somewhat the worse for wear. Park Moms Inc, of which Supriya is the founder member, and, in this regard the most outspoken member, is of the opinion, not entirely baseless, that I dress them in rags – even that I go out of my way to dress them in rags. Or at least, that I don’t go out of my way to get rid of their rags and replace them with decent stuff. (Luckily, she saw them returning from school one day and admitted that at least they went to school looking halfway respectable – something my verbal assurances to the effect had not been successful in convincing her of.)
The truth is, I’m not very sure that I want my daughters to look very girlie and pretty-pretty. I’m actually quite happy with their tomboyish-ness. I like to see them romping in the park and I prefer not to have to worry about them spoiling their pretty clothes. I don’t want to spend a lot on buying pretty but expensive clothes that are only going to get ruined in three days. If they’re happy to rotate three t-shirts per head for three months, that suits my stingy, minimalistic nature just fine. Left to myself, I’d do the same. (In fact, I do – except that instead of three t-shirts, I have about a dozen.)
I also like them to be able to have a say in at least this most harmless decision in their life. There’s so little else that they do have control over. I’m all for encouraging independence of thought and if that means that Mrini wants to wear “my favourite pussycat t-shirt” seven days a week, well, why not? (Apart from the occasional break for washing it.) It might look atrocious, but they’re happy and who cares what others think, anyway?
I do believe that they should be decently and practically dressed for school, the way I myself make an effort to be presentably turned out for work, but if they want to be ragamuffin-ish tomboys at home, I don’t think I mind. At all.
Besides, even if I did mind, what could I do? I have been accused by my better half of setting a bad example. But my casual approach to dressing is too deeply ingrained in my nature. Even if I had a stock of pretty clothes, wearing them at home on a regular basis would be unthinkable for me. That’s just not who I am, and I’m not going to even try to change just so my daughters can learn to be pretty. As they grow up, they can learn those things from other role models than me. At some point, their Anjali-masi can give them a crash-course in grace and poise and elegance.
Meanwhile, I hope to be able to teach them other things which are more important to me, like a love of reading, music, playing violin, traveling, baking… All the fun stuff where mothers can lead by example – and in the bargain, if I run the risk of raising two little ruffians, I can live with that.