Last week I became a mother of a kindergartener – a trendy one. She walked into school super proud because she was toting the backpack and lunchbox she had so passionately selected all on her own. The backpack is basically a walking billboard of Merida, her favorite Disney Princess these days, and the star of the summer’s blockbuster movie Brave. The lunchbox features a fashionable Barbie amidst a sea of hot pink, a color difficult to escape in the aisles of products geared towards tweens and young girls.
Contrary to the trend the New York Times reported this week that a large number of people are delaying their back-to-school purchases until after school starts to find out what’s trendy first, I bought my girl her two most important back-to-school purchases six weeks ago — the lunchbox and the backpack.
I have to admit that while we don’t fall within the group that waited until after back-to-school season to buy essentials, we do fall within those that think about trends and fitting in. In fact, I bought that backpack and lunchbox six weeks before school started because there was a nice deal on them, but mostly because I didn’t want the Merida backpacks to run out and then have my girl miss out on it. I’m admitting this because I hadn’t realized the impulse behind that purchase until I read the NYT article. Seriously, I’m always the one buying the birthday party gifts 30 minutes before the party and wrapping it in the car! I don’t plan purchases, but I hurried to make sure my girl had not only what she needed, but what she thought she really wanted.
As I was driving her to school this morning, she started babbling to me about how no one else in her class had the Merida backpack, but another girl in another class had the Barbie lunchbox and she didn’t want them to get messed up. She’s five. She notices these things, a lot.
The conversation got me thinking that she already has the following-the-trends gene wired into her being. I was the type of girl who always wanted to wear the latest and hottest jeans and sneakers brands in the 80’s. Yeah, we are talking Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt and Guess days. I was fully aware of which were the coolest hairstyles (two perms in my teens…and I have naturally wavy hair already!), and which colors were in season in the U.S. so I could be a trend-setter in El Salvador, where I grew up. This, of course, also meant that I would get a new Trapper Keeper every single summer when I went to visit my dad in Houston, and my stereo was always blasting the music I had recorded during my stay and no one had even heard of yet back home.
Now, looking down the linage of women in my family, the trend gene lives in us.
But now I’m 40 and have no time for trends, but my girl does. As much as I don’t want her to be a spoiled only child, I have a hard time not indulging her love for the trends she sees. It doesn’t mean I buy her just to buy, it means that I have no problem allowing her to add color and fun to her life by letting her choose any trend she gravitates to with the items she does need to have anyways.
Maybe next year we won’t be amongst the mere 47.8 percent of parents with school-age children reported by the National Retail Federation to have done their back-to-school shopping before classes started. It seems like my girl is quickly acquiring a nose for trends, paired with a very decisive attitude, that will surely mean she’ll know what she wants.
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Check out the forthcoming book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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