She was inconsolable. The tears were streaming down her face, the stress was palpalable: “I don’t want to President, I want to be me!” Satya shrieked, her tiny little face red with worry.
This one was on me. I had laid out a sweet little “Future President” t-shirt, complete with a tutu and a pair of Doc Martens. It was #toddlerswag, #outfitgoals and whatever else moms much cooler than me would call it.
But there was no way Satya, my almost three-years-old with a daily code red level sass alert, was going to take this quietly. She has no intention of ever being POTUS (despite her reputation for carrying around both an Obama and HRC doll) and she wasn’t going to put on a t-shirt that said otherwise. It was false advertising and she knew it.
Toddlers are weirdos. One minute they are all in, lapping up everything you say, hanging on every word like you’re their personal Buddha. But, just when you get comfortable, they turn on you, rejecting it all. It’s exhausting but also hysterical. This kid was melting down over a sparkly t-shirt.
But you know, I don’t blame her. We read a lot, chatting about the little lessons tucked away in the stories. We talk about all sort of things, even stuff that seems uncomfortable or out of reach. So, as we get dressed every morning, we talk about the clothes she’s wearing, too. Stories are what we internalize, but what we wear—even for our littlest ladies—are what we’re projecting to the world. (Even Ava Duvernay knows there’s power in declaring your intentions—she wore a “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dream” top earlier this week for her first day of filming A Wrinkle in Time.)
Look, most of the time there are no deep life lessons in our clothes, but they do provide another way to connect with each other and the people around us. Sometimes we chat about the cats on her pants and if they are friends with the dogs on her shoes (she’s insane about animals, it’s genetic) or we have a laugh over pairing a dinosaur T-shirt with a tutu, speaking only in “dino roars” for the duration of the walk to school.
But the most fun is what happens when we put a statement tee and boldly declare to each other and to the world what we’re about and our intentions for the day. I tell her what the shirt says, what it means, and off we go. (We wore Otherwild’s “The Future is Female” t-shirts—25 percent of sales benefit Planned Parenthood, btw—to the polls.) And particularly in these tough days after the election, they are as much a reminder to the girls as they are to their mamas to keep on keeping on. To organize, to participate and, above all, to expect to be respected and to respect others, even when we disagree.
Sure, I get the whole “I’m putting my beliefs on her” criticism—she’s a vegetarian who wears tops that say, “The Future is Female”, “Every Girl is a Super Hero” or “Kind the new Cool”. But when we’re talking about kindness and girl power, well, you bet your ass I am. In fact, I’ll bet the house on it. As for that “Future President” tee, we gave it away. I had to. Because that’s the thing about raising a legit little feminist, she’s going to have opinions and she’s going to demand to be heard.