A couple of days after she started playgroup, I noticed that my 3 year old stuck out from the other spotless, well groomed & nicely attired Dutch kids. The girls had fancy braids and the boys wore hair gel. Their outfits had been IRONED!

These wunderkinds shook hands with their teacher every day and politely said, “Good morning”. They were quietly spoken, like their smart parents had discovered how to turn their volume down. I made a note to ask the Dutch mamas how they did this….

I felt pressure to try to up our game, so that my raucous wildling would not look quite so unkempt alongside these model children.

She was having none of it.

“I dress on my OWN mama”.

And NO. She didn’t want to have her hair brushed.

She refused to say good morning.
She refused to shake the teacher’s hand.
She waved. It wasn’t enough.
I could see that it wasn’t going to work.
“It’s not you. It’s them”, I told her.

Our 3 year old is pure energy and joy. It shines like a blinding beacon from her core….but if you get too close, she scorches you with her zippetyzap.

She fights us daily for her right to march to the beat of her own drum. It starts from the second she opens her eyes with a full-blown Morning Clothes Battle. I gave it capitals. It deserves them, such is the ferocity of the attack.

One morning we were startled awake by a dawn war cry of, “I need to be a ballerinaaaaaaaaaaa”. IT WAS 5:20. Even the sodding birds were sleeping.

She left the bed and returned wearing a waist length blonde wig, sparkly tutu and humongous stained, wiffy vest from the laundry basket. Apparently this was ballerina attire. And it was staying. She looked ghoulish. It was the wig. It was all shades of disturbing.

I was unprepared for this daily clothing crisis. I mean, I thought the 5 year old had broken us in to most of the horrors of parenting, yet this one was new.

The 5 year old never comments on what he’s wearing. I am not sure he notices what he’s got on and aside from its comfort, he has zero opinions about his attire. It is a very comfortable arrangement. Honestly I am not much better. I may be the only Dutch suburban housewife with a floordrobe pile.

I often have health and safety concerns for the 3 year old’s choice of attire. Privately I worry she will look mental next to the Dutch kids. I fret their zen mamas will judge my ability as a parent.

She gives zero fucks for my preoccupations.

I tried reasoning, force, bribery….and then you know what?

One morning, in a pre-coffee Mondaze, I gave in to our little popinjay. I felt like I was glam shaming her. The daily battles I face are bigger than those of a tutu, and the energy I have is not infinite. So I conceded. I took off all stops on her choice of attire, short of nudity.

And sometimes she goes there too. I rejected naked trips to Lidl though. That seemed a bit extreme.

We moved her to a new playgroup. Now at morning drop off, I see that there are a few more free-thinking fashionistas there too.

These days she turns up how she sees fit. I’m merely in her entourage. She kind of rocks it. I still cringe, but at least she now looks like the definition of her personality. Strong, colourful and explosive. Fizzy fresh air poured into a tattered pink party dress and wellies.

Maybe she needs this veneer as she navigates her new country and language. Maybe her clothes are a type of warpaint or camouflage? An advertisement to the world: Don’t eat me, I’m toxic.

It’s a warning cry.
A protective layer she wears as she steps out from the home, faces her day and paves her own way.

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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