She Says… Wardrobe Malfunctions

Thanks for your comments on yesterday’s post about Owen mirroring his friend. I have never heard of “mirror neurons” and the psych major in me finds the idea very interesting (especially as it relates to building empathy/self-awareness… two things I can clearly see Owen working on developmentally).

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Case in point… here is a picture from last weekend where Owen WOULD NOT pick his face paint design until another friend did. At least he copied something cute!


Last weekend was our first real taste of spring. Ahhhhh, spring. After the long, cold, snowy winter. It was glorious.


WAS. We got a taste of the warm breeze and the sunshine and then it was rudely replaced by frost and 30 degree temps. Nevertheless, we basked in it.

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Along with the warm weather came warm weather clothes! Shorts. Tee shirts. Even sandals. Owen was IN HEAVEN. Remember in the fall when we had such a hard time with layers and wrinkles? Apparently the cure for that is called WARM WEATHER.


Or so I thought.


Dude was all aflutter over getting to wear his shorts and sandals. He walked on air and acted like an angel for 2 days. And then it got cold again, and now even the thought of talking about clothes sends him into a rage-y tantrum, like I’ve never seen before.

Perhaps he’s not cut out for New England livin’.


Let me just say that Owen has been completely dressing himself for about a year. We don’t tell him what he can and can’t wear… we just make sure that his clothes are weather-appropriate since he spends a lot of time outside. If he wants to wear a frog costume to the grocery store, he totally can. We never talk about matching and love to see what he picks. He usually jumps right out of bed, gets himself dressed right down to the socks, and we go downstairs to start our day with no problems.


This week, however, every morning, getting Owen to get himself dressed has been a nightmare. All of a sudden, if we say he has to wear pants because it’s freezing outside, he will only wear ONE pair of fleece sweatpants. No others. And there’s only ONE acceptable long-sleeved shirt in his drawer (and he HAS to wear a long-sleeved shirt because his friend wears long-sleeved shirts, duh). ONE. I’m such a mean mom that I won’t let him wear shorts in 30 degree weather, and Benjamin and I decided to put our proverbial foot down about wearing dirty clothes, so every day except for the ONE DAY when both the shirt and pants happened to be clean, we have had an all-out, lay-on-the-floor-and-cry, scream-at-the-top-of-his-lungs tantrum on our hands.


We’ve tried hugging it out, and helping him along. We’ve tried no tolerance, “we’re walking out the door even if you don’t have a shirt on at all”. We’ve tried negotiating and trying to get to the bottom of the new rules (what is this REALLY about?) and listening and explaining why we have to wash clothes. We’ve tried going shopping and finding new, acceptable clothes that Owen picks out himself (which worked really well, actually, except that all of the clothes that were available are summer clothes, except for one pair of pants, so he can’t wear most of what we bought until the darn sun comes out again). We’ve thought about picking the clothes out the night before, but that just shifts the tantrum to night time and then, knowing Owen, he would stress and be anxious all night and not even sleep.


The good news is that, as soon as we get out the door, the tantrum, no matter how crazy, is totally forgotten. He even apologizes “for fussin'” and promises that it won’t happen again, totally unprompted. It’s like he can’t control it himself, even when he tries.

Whew, being 3 is hard, yo.


On some days I think he just wants something to fuss about to see if he can. On other days I really, truly think that he feels emotionally connected to these clothes and cannot fathom wearing anything else. I get it, but I also can’t let him go to school in shorts when it’s freezing out (remember what happened when he refused to wear gloves and we went sledding anyway?).

The silver lining on this particular struggle is that the warm weather is on its way. And soon we will not even have to talk about fleece pants at all. And he can wear his shorts and sandals every. single. day.


Does your kid have favorite clothes? Do you let them wear the same ones day after day? What are your clothes “rules”?


12 responses to “She Says… Wardrobe Malfunctions

  1. I have a three year old, too. She picks her own clothes, but, like you, they have to be clean. I also require bloomers/leggings/tights over undies with skirts. We live in AZ and it’s already 90, but she wants to wear leggings or tights Even though it’s not weather-appropriate, I’m OK with it. You could try offering some long johns under shorts. 🙂

    I don’t really comment on here, but most of your posts help me realize that my three year old is not abnormal. Thanks, Owen!

  2. It goes on. My 5-year-old flipped out over a pair of cargo shorts he WOULD NOT wear 3 days ago, so I relented and let him wear some others. Then the next day he showed up to breakfast in those same rejected cargo shorts, as if there were never any issue.

  3. I limit the options R has, so I let him pick between two different shirts, two different bottoms, and two different socks. That way I always pick something appropriate for the weather. So far it’s working, but he’s also only 2.5.

  4. my daughter is 2.2 years old… her ‘thing’ is stuff that has to go over her head… you know, like every single shirt on the planet… She only wants thing that “no going over my head!” Sometimes she wants to pick the shirt, sometimes she just runs away crying… I play the mean mommy, grab and put it on, and afterwards say “no big deal” and we move on with our day…
    I think all kids pick something to fixate on, no matter how small or crazy. It’s a control thing for them….

  5. Growing up there was a friend who would only wear a leotard, even when it was way too small. And a younger brother of a friend who had to wear cowboy boots, no matter what. Including with old school gym shorts.

  6. Ethan has never had a problem dressing in whatever. Occasionally he’ll have an opinion about his shirt, but he’s usually cool with whatever. Miles is a totally different story, though – on clothes, pajamas, shoes, jackets, hats! (It’s not surprising, given his sensory issues.) He’s recently become obsessed with his new rain boots and those are the ONLY shoes he will wear, which was kind of tough during that bout of warm weather – sweaty feet! And he tends to rotate between the same 3 shirts, so I just try to get the laundry done, because I have the same rule as you – we don’t wear dirty clothes! I can only imagine the clothing drama when Stella is old enough to care…. 🙂

  7. Clothes are a major major major issue here. It takes MONTHES to get him to wear winter stuff. By February we finally got him in a winter coat. No socks, ever. Boots only, no shoes. Now that it is warm he still insists on the winter stuff. Must be camo fleece so we rotate between about four shirts and four pants. Gah!

  8. I don’t know man, as someone with a 3 year old with an anxiety diagnosis that’s difficult to manage even with therapy, if something like a particular set of clothing made her happy, I’d freaking wash it every night. Pick your battles and remember it’s probably just a phase.

  9. I love you so much, Kara.

  10. Omg I was so distracted by the cute Emmett pics I almost forgot to read the blog post! Clothes are something Owen can control atm… it is getting your attn and in 3 yr old land that is awesome… maybe let him wear the shorts/shirts and pack warmer clothes for him to go to school in. When he gets cold- they will be there for him to put on and it will be his choice. This too shall pass!

  11. Love the pics. And haha, this is every day of my life since Maya turned 2 — she is soooo difficult about clothing choices now. 😦 It makes me so frustrated and she can (and does) button and zipper her own clothes but I’m impatient and sometimes we have to go!!! I offer two options, and even sometimes that backfires. It’s just a really hard stage. I’ve started also to let her pick out Ben’s clothes too — then she usually chills out.

  12. Glad to know we’re not alone in this particular struggle 🙂 So far so good this week — we started a new sticker chart because he’s currently fixated on getting roller skates and we decided together how he could earn them. Today’s plan was to wear a long-sleeved shirt, bring a short-sleeved shirt, and to wear a frog costume instead of a jacket. Whatever works!

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