Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Kiddos Tuesdays when it’s all about the kiddos. 

So this weekend, my husband surprised me by telling me that he wanted to take the girls out. A father-daughter thing. And he tried to fly several options by the girls — they could go golfing (no one was interested); they could go to the pool (no one was interested), and so he gave them several options (needless to say, not impressed). And then he said, “Mall.” Oh, they were all in! 

It didn’t dawn on me that there was a potential for problems here. Daddy had never really taken the girls shopping before. In the past, he had taken them to buy a gift for someone or to get something specific at a store, but never just taken them freewheeling. Now one of my daughters did send me pictures of the stuff that she was buying, and beyond the images, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with them. She never mentioned what store they were in, and they were with Dad, so it didn’t occur to me to ask where they were at — you know, I trust him to keep them safe and to do the right thing by them.

Oh boy!!

And then they got home. Oh boy, did I have a significant heart attack! My 12-year-olds came in with Forever 21 shopping bags! I knew immediately that there was going to be a problem! Now the problem wasn’t just that that clothing store was inappropriate for 12-year-olds (and we’ll get into a discussion about that in a few minutes). But the problem was that I recognized that. Immediately. My husband, however, had not. 

So now I had to deal with they went out with dad, and I was going to have to be the bad guy and say, “You cannot keep this.” So I was less than charitable with my husband; I was angry with him. How could he? What was he thinking, taking them to Forever 21?! Yes, a couple of hours later, I calmed down, and I realized, well, that’s kind of a ridiculous assertion — my husband doesn’t know anything about clothing brands or clothing stores. He does all his shopping at Kohls. Frankly, I don’t know what the man will do if the store ever closed down.

So he had no idea what Forever 21 is. And my girls didn’t know anything about Forever 21 — this was the first time they went to that mall, and this was the first time they ever experienced that store. Now, in case you don’t know about Forever 21, Forever 21 is a clothing store that is most appropriate for older teens and people in their twenties. And in more recent years, it has courted a bit of a controversial image. For example, in past years, it has put vaguely racist slogans on many of its t-shirts. It can have a lot of oversexualized attire, and oversexualized slogans on its t-shirts such as “Teens Do It Best.” 

And if that wasn’t enough, they had a campaign in which they sent Atkin’s Diet Bars to customers who had ordered plus-size clothing. If that isn’t body-shaming, I don’t know what is. Whatever the reason is people are overweight, it is certainly not up to a retailer to a.) point it out or, b.) suggest which way the issue should be addressed. 

Now to the more practical side of why my 12-year-olds shouldn’t be shopping at Forever 21. Yes, they have some breast; yes, they have the beginning of hips — but the clothing, the cuts, is made for women who have fully developed breasts and fully developed bones. So they looked like skinny little tent poles, and a tent was wrapping around them because they don’t have the curves necessary to hold the clothing up appropriately. Additionally, once your girls grow up, there’s no taking them back. Once you allow them to dress older, they’re going to want to continue to wear older. And I’m not ready for that. Yes, I know that they are prepared for it because everything in social media and everything in society is telling them that they’re ready.

But for me, as their mother, I am not ready to see them become oversexualized at such an early age. I’m not interested in the challenges and problems that they will have to face as a result of that over-sexualization at such an old age. Therefore, they are not ready for it. That’s called parenting. I’m making decisions for them because I feel that’s in their best interest. It may not be a popular decision, and not everyone will agree with it. You might not agree with it, but they’re my children. These are my household rules. 

Now before you point out, ‘well, your husband took them to the store,’ back to wait I said before, he knows nothing about clothing brands or stores, and he does agree with me. We are both in sync when it comes to this. There’s no need for our girls to become oversexualized at an early age. Sexuality is a good, regular part of growth. But it doesn’t need to happen so quickly — at least that’s our feeling regarding our girls.

So, given that I acknowledged that my husband doesn’t know anything about clothing brands, should I allow my daughters to go back shopping alone with him? Of course. Because my husband does have their best interest at heart. Always. And now he knows he will not take them to Forever 21. And we do need to figure out a way to communicate so that those kinds of mistakes don’t happen in the future because this led us to have to address a problem that was accidentally created. 

The girls had to put on the clothes, they had to do their little fashion show in front of us, and we had to decide what they could keep, and they couldn’t keep — what we felt was too inappropriate. And some of it, it wasn’t the length, it was merely the cut. As I said, they don’t have the breast and the hips to wear the clothing in a way that looks appropriate or flattering. 

Now I have to be honest with you and tell you that I fully expected some blowback from the girls. I expected them to fight or to argue and mainly because they had been allowed to purchase the clothing and bring it all the way home. But there wasn’t. Yes, Andy, at one point said, “But I like this, why can’t I keep it? Can’t we just have it adjusted?” And unfortunately, no, we could not. The armpit was midway through her belly button, so it’s kind of hard to fix something like that. 

But that was about the gist of it. There were no tears; there were no tantrums, so I was very, very happy about that because I was dreading being the bad guy and just flat out, putting my foot down and saying no. Especially after my husband had allowed them to purchase the clothing. Of course, this led me to the realization that while we have general rules regarding dress, we’ve never really gone over them. And perhaps, if we had, we could have avoided this whole thing altogether.

So, I have to go back and think of those general rules and put them together for my twin daughters. First, or the first big debate that we have to address was bra vs. no bra. Now I have to be honest with you and tell you that I didn’t wear a bra when I was young up until the point when I got pregnant. I wore a double-A bra — 32 double-A. It doesn’t get any smaller than that I mean; basically, it was a training bra. So I got away without wearing a bra for years. Forty, to be exact when I got pregnant. 

I did wear bras, primarily to go to work or if I was wearing something see-through and definitely to church or, you know, places where it was appropriate to be more modest. But that was about the gist of it. Now today, studies conclude that bras have no health benefits. All that stuff about bras helping with back pain, posture, or retaining the shape of the breast — none of those benefits are real. They’re not. But we have grown accustomed to wearing them. Some studies indicate that wearing bras for lengthy periods and over the years may diminish the muscle tone in our breasts and may also impair lymphatic drainage, which will prevent the excretion of carcinogen — toxins — out of our lymphatic nodes in that area. 

So what’s the situation in our home? Currently, all my girls are small breasted. All three of them. Primarily because they’re not fully developed. I do have one that doesn’t like to wear a bra, and I have two that wear a bra regularly. And out of those two, I have one that swears that she can’t possibly make it outside of the home without wearing a bra. She likes wearing sports bras.

So, where are we on all of this? Well, I have left that decision up to them. However, the one that likes to go braless, I have insisted that she wear nipple covers, primarily because we have been in a couple of public places where I see older men staring at her chest or pointing or making snide comments — let’s face it: our society can be exceedingly chauvinistic. So she does wear nipple covers. But outside of that, I don’t force them to wear or not to wear a bra. 

So then, are we for modest attire, or not modest attire? Huh… That’s a real debate in our household because I fully understand that some women find their strength or some of their power from showing off their body parts. And that there are some women that feel that those body parts should be covered at all times. But I also consider their age — they’re only 12!

So here are our basic guidelines:

  1. No shorty shorts unless they’re for dance. They wear midi shorts. Dresses, skirts — short midi length.
  2. Cleavage – Yes, they have a tiny, little fracture. There, I guess we can go with the bra/no bra rule. It’s up to them whether they wear a bra or not, but no, they’re not allowed to show cleavage. They’re too young.
  3. Tummy – It’s ok to show tummy. My daughters do wear some crop tops. They’re not allowed to wear tank tops, though, because there are no straps to them. And they are allowed to wear spaghetti straps, but they’re not allowed to wear spaghetti straps when we go to our homeschool co-op. Not for modesty issues, but practical matters. As a retired professor who used to teach in the education department, I can tell you that it was not uncommon for boys in middle school to pull the strap off of girls, and now you have a girl who is mortified that her breasts are in full display in a playground. So to avoid that, we don’t do spaghetti straps in the co-op. 

I do allow them to explore their style. Dora has a very sophisticated grown-up taste and within the appropriate clothing stores and brands, she is allowed to explore that. She’s also the tallest of my three girls so that she can get away with just slightly more adult-ish clothing.

Emmy is a total girly-girl. We see lots of florals, lots of pink, lots of lace, and bejeweled. I would say that the most modest of my three kids is Andy. She is your basic jeans, t-shirt kind of girl — any t-shirt that has been on The Big Bang Theory or that does homage to The Big Bang Theory t-shirts is right for her. Especially Spider-Man. Anything Spider-Man is excellent. So she’s all into all of that. She does cosplay, and when she dresses up, she can get a little bit more daring. 

Now, they don’t always make choices I like. But as long as they’re not showing too much on the bottom or too much on the top, I don’t say anything. I allow them to explore it, and I don’t really — or let me rephrase that — I do my best not to have an expression on my face but to encourage that exploration. Sometimes I’m cringing on the inside going “Oooohhhh… Why? Why? Why do you have to go there?!” 

But then I remember my mother wanting to pick my clothing for school every day up until the 9th grade, and frankly, that was just absolutely ludicrous. Children need to be able to develop their own personal sense of style. Now lately, Andy has been trying me a little bit because up until this year my policy has been they were not allowed to wear black. Black is a very adult color and I just didn’t want them wearing it. But now they’re preteens — pretty soon to be teenagers — and I have relented on that. And there are days when Andy feels like she’s bathed in a bucket of black goo. She’s into this Maude kind of stage some days — not my favorite, but I respect it. And to be honest with you, she looks good. 

I also realized that I need to spend some time teaching them what’s a good fit, what looks good on them, given their body type. Now my three girls are of a healthy weight. Emmy and Andy are petite. Andy has more of a Barbie body — you know, that body we all wish we had. And she gets away with eating anything she wants and gains no weight. 

Emmy, on the other hand, has a very athletic toned body. She can’t get away with eating just anything, But she does exercise a lot, so she’s always fit and trim. 

Dora is not overweight, but she is definitely more massive than the two other girls, and she’s also taller than the two other girls. I mean I’m 5’6″, which is 3 inches above the average for an American and probably about 6 inches above the average for a Mexican, and Dora is almost as tall as I am. I fully expect that she’s going to be taller than I am because her biological mother, her other mom, is I think 6 feet, 6’1″ or 6’2″. So very, very tall woman. And so is her biological father. So I fully expect that she is going to be a lot taller. 

So given the fact that they have different body types, I need to teach them to dress for those body types so that they look their best. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t wear whatever we want when the mood strikes us, but we should know what we look best in. And we should know how to accentuate the body parts that we are comfortable accentuating. 

Now my husband would love it if I wear smaller clothes. But to tell you the truth, I’ve never been comfortable in tight-fitting clothes. I’ve been comfortable in form-fitting clothes but not tight. And let me tell you, right now that we’re living in Puerto Rico, I’m in the minority. People here tend to wear very, very tight clothes. So would I look good in those clothes? I don’t know. He swears I would. But I’m not comfortable dressing up that way.  

So it’s not just about teaching the girls to dress for their body types so that they look their best but also helping them find whatever style it is that they’re comfortable with. So at least for the remainder of their 12th year and possibly their 13th year, we’re going to be sticking with Kohl’s, Justice, Target, All Navy, and The Children’s Place. And we’re going to continue missing Crazy Eights. Hopefully, I can get away with that until they turn 14. But then, I know that things will change and we’ll probably be hitting Forever 21, Juicy Couture and who knows what else. But until then, this is where we’re at.

If you can think of any other great places to shop for young twins, please let me know. 

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