"My daughter will be so pleased," she declared, "since she's really sad about not being able to choose her own clothes otherwise. Because of the uniforms," she clarified. "She's really more of a sequins-and-feathers kind of girl." (I am not shitting you.)
"I'm a fan of the Standard Attire," I said, "mostly because I don't like having the sparkly-high-heels fight every morning."
At this point Other Mother fixed me with a wet-eyed pitying look, pressing her lips together in a concerned semi-smile.
"My daughter has always dressed herself," she said. "You know" -- and here the pity turned to syrupy condescension -- "clothes are really the only way children have to express themselves."
And there I stood agog for what felt like fifteen minutes, while my future entire flashed before my eyes: clearly our children would be assigned to the same kindergarten classroom, the same first, second, third, class play orchestra recital middle school high school summer programs OH MY GOD.
"Sophia has always dressed herself," I stammered, "but I insist on sensible shoes." Although it's possible I actually said "Oa bllfft ggnn bruup!" I was catatonic with...something. Not rage, but utter speechless disbelief. Because, hey, lady, do you think I forced that child to come to school that morning in a bathing suit, obviously homemade American flag-themed skirt, and frilly undershirt?
As Sean put it later: "Judging me: UR DOIN IT RONG."
I mean, there are many facets of my parenting you would do well to judge me on: my reliance on Sonic shakes as a bribe, my inability to control the volume and tone of my voice in my rage at horrible four-year-old behavior, my desire to spend just a little goddamn time on Facebook which results in Sophia sometimes watching SpongeBob during Daphne's nap (without me there to mute the commercials, God, I know). But we've let Sophia dress herself, sometimes in defiance of meteorology, for as long as she's been able. She's gone out in the snow in a t-shirt (I carried the coat for when she changed her mind), she's worn elaborate formal dresses for days on end, she's mixed and matched and made beautiful fashion. Heck, there was a week in 2007 when she wore a pair of underpants as a hat. In public. All week. (She was so proud of her "ha'" that we couldn't bear to make her take it off.)
But I never made these allowances under the delusion that fashion was the only available avenue for self-expression and discovery. That's just stupidity masquerading as progressive parenting. In fact, I would go so far as to deem it anti-feminist, if you really want to go mucking around in there. Means for self-expression, sure. But not the ONLY one. Even little kids have voices -- or should, at least -- in their families and schools. Especially families ostensibly "progressive" enough to allow self-outfitting.
At any rate, Sophia is so jazzed about her uniforms that she would probably wear them even if they weren't required. She looks like a million bucks in her little khaki skort and pink polo.
She was delighted to learn, however, that any kind of tights -- colors, stripes, polka dots -- are allowed. At least she'll be able to share herself with the world that way. God knows it's all she's got.