Why You Should Never Dress Your Children in Matching Outfits
Or, why balance is better than symmetry.
When I was a kid my mother used to dress my sisters and I in matching outfits on every holiday. I’m sure that she thought this was adorable. I can assure you, it was not. Wearing a “uniform” was totally humiliating and all it did was ruin the excitement of the day and completely piss us off. You couldn’t possibly put three more different people on the planet Earth than me and my sisters, and in fact, someone once asked my mother if we were from the same father because we don’t even look alike. While we weren’t the only ones to suffer this seemingly innocent, but scarily popular indignity, I am kinda surprised to find that a form of it still exists today.
Kids today may not be suffering the eradication of their identities by the horrible matching Easter outfit, but the practice of trying to be “fair” to our kids has given rise to the notion of everything always needing to be equal. Guess what, everything is NOT always equal. I have one kid, so it’s easy for me to say this because in my house there is no sharing, no division of affection, no trying to keep the playing field level. But I did grow up in a house with two sisters where I assure you NOTHING was equal (hence the desperate need for matching pajamas), and having one child gives me the clarity and objectivity to see the struggle going on in other families. And I can tell you that symmetry is NOT the same as balance.
Let’s be honest, every kid is different. They have their own wonderfully unique, incredible personalities which come hand in hand with their innate nature. I think our job as parents (and frankly, it’s reeeeeaaaally difficult) is figuring out and honoring that uniqueness by discovering what they need as individuals and checking our preconceived notions at the door. I feel like we sometimes get caught up in the quantitative way we give, because it’s easy and we can measure it, instead of the qualitative way they receive. Some need more, some are perfectly fine with less. I think it’s our guilt that does the whitewashing and personally, I’d love for us to have the time and permission to figure out who our kids are and love them in the way they need, without judgement.
In my design practice I often have to apply symmetry to fix an odd or quirky layout. And it’s a proven solution when dealing with spacial irregularities. But when given the freedom to employ the big guns of balance by juxtaposing color, shape and size in a room – that’s where the magic happens. So I encourage all of us to celebrate the individual magic in our children because they too come in every color, shape and size. And because, unless you are in a marching band, uniforms suck.