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Child Dresses Self at Dawn
Undies and all; shirt is backwards but nobody really cares
A few weeks ago, at our last parent-teacher conference, Kina’s beloved teacher—Ms. Olenick—told us that we should be very happy with Kina’s development, and that as long as she was able to, say, dress herself in the morning, she was basically on track. At this point, we nodded thoughtfully, noting silently that we had continued to dress Kina every morning since she was a baby, assuming somehow that the matter of dressing oneself would be brought to our attention by a pediatrician or other expert. Apparently, kids dress themselves!
It is not entirely true that Kina didn’t know how to dress herself already. I’ve watched from around corners as she very fluidly donned her own shoes and jacket on her way out the door with her nanny, Hannah. I told Hannah once that we were still putting Kina’s jacket on before we left the house, and that Kina seemed not to know how to do it; Hannah raised her eyebrows, which I always take as a sign that I have somehow failed to hit my mark as a parent. What we believed to be an inability to understand shoes was, as it turns out, actually a penchant for having her parents place shoes on her feet. The inability is contextual, and the context is us.
So, having learned about Kina’s extremely typical development, I took the matter directly to her. “Ms. Olenick says you gotta dress yourself,” I said, “like a big girl. It’s big girl time.” Knowing, as I said, that she was fully capable of this, I acted as though I was an Olympic judge for self-dressing, taking copious notes on an invisible notepad (all to be processed, presumably, by Ms. Olenick) about the particular nuances of how Kina puts on leggings. With an arched eyebrow, I’d mutter to myself as she reluctantly pulled on her shirt: “Ms… Olenick… Kina… can’t put on… her own… sleeves.” Kina would promptly slide her arm into her left sleeve. “Kina… can’t put on… the other… sleeve.” Kina shoved her right arm into its sleeve. In this fashion, continually taking and correcting notes on Kina’s clothes-wearing skills, I would watch her reveal this talent that she had hidden, apparently, only from her parents. Every day in the last few weeks has been like this, until today.
Today, Kina walked into our bedroom at 6:24 AM and announced that she had dressed herself, “undies and all”. In her room, the evidence was clear—pajamas, underwear, and socks piled up next to her bureau, with all its drawers opened. Kina, meanwhile, resplendent in her morning finery: a tulle skirt tucked into the butt of her unicorn leggings, two mismatched socks, and a bejeweled ombre Tinkerbell shirt she picked out at the vintage kids store last month. As I had recorded several times in my invisible notebook, she had successfully placed her arms in the sleeves, but the shirt was turned around, with the sparkly Tinkerbell all rumpled up on her back. “Shirts are tricky,” I said, but I didn’t dock her any points for it.
I started this newspaper because I found it comical that Kina kept dodging potty training, to the point that it had grown newsworthy. It feels fitting that we approach our first anniversary by celebrating another accomplishment that was clearly overdue and easily addressed. As long as we have fun skirts and Elsa dresses laying around, Kina has an incentive to take the matter of getting dressed into her own hands, and that’s right and appropriate. I will probably miss pulling on her pants for her someday, and I’ll look back on this moment with jewel-toned nostalgia, but nobody gets me dressed in the morning, and so I’m going to put this work squarely on Kina. She can whine about it if she wants (I’ll take notes!), but I also don’t have a bejeweled ombre Tinkerbell shirt, so I’d call this tradeoff even.