Once upon a time, there were few things I liked more than shopping for my daughter. When it came to selecting her wardrobe, each stage of her life was more fun than the last. Choosing themed outfits for each holiday, birthday party, and special occasion made me giddy. For her first birthday, I spent hours online searching for the perfect dress before finally selecting one from a small Australian boutique. It took a month to arrive, but it was a stunning creation of soft pink lace and well worth the wait. I had dreamed of being a mom to a girl, and I was going to enjoy every bow, frill, and ruffle that came along with it. Then, my daughter turned three, and everything changed.
The prim and proper little girl who hated getting dirty discovered that finger painting is actually a blast, and if jumping in muddy puddles was good enough for Peppa Pig, it was good enough for her, too. This meant that a lot of my daughter's clothes (and all of the money I had spent on them) from 3T on were destined for the trash. But a newfound love of destroying her clothing wasn't the only change that occurred in my 3-year-old. She started voicing opinions — strong ones — especially when it came to getting dressed.
Shopping without my children has always been my ideal. Without them in tow, I can walk into a store, sift through the racks of clothes, make my selections, pay, and leave in a fairly reasonable amount of time. But now, just two months shy of her fifth birthday, my daughter is more opinionated than ever. No matter how much thought I put into the clothes or shoes I buy for her, she always manages to find something wrong with whatever I've picked out.
Several months ago, I came across a pink top with lace around the hem. It had a bunch of white unicorns with sparkly horns pulling Santa's sleigh. It seemed to meet all of her criteria: pink, lace, unicorns, glitter, and, as an added bonus, it was Christmas-themed. I bought the shirt, confident that she would adore it. Well, the joke was on me. You see, the unicorn had a blue mane, and blue was "not her favorite color" that week. The shirt had to go back. Shopping with my children is hard, but having to go back and make returns is a nightmare and costs an exorbitant amount of time that, with three children and only a precious few hours to myself each week, I simply can't afford.
The episode with the unicorn shirt wasn't the first of its kind, but it was the last. Now, my almost 5-year-old accompanies me whenever it's time to buy new shoes or clothes. Mother-daughter shopping excursions used to be one of the things I dreamed of as luxury experience in which we looked at stores for hours. Now, I'm just happy if we can make it out of a store without one (or both) of us on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
Shopping trips that used to take me under an hour can now take close to two depending on her mood, and they almost always require bribery. But while each excursion ends with purchasing more items than I would have had I gone solo, I leave with a bag of properly fitting clothes that I know she'll enjoy wearing because she picked them out herself at a store she loves. I leave knowing that I won't have to trek back to deal with exchanges or returns. I leave knowing that getting dressed in the mornings won't be a battle of epic proportions.
Shopping with my daughter is tough, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy our one-on-one time after we're finished. Celebrating mission accomplished with a couple of Frappuccinos before heading home is just as much for me as it is her reward for cooperating. It's become a sort of tradition for us, one I'm sure we'll both appreciate in the years to come.