Let Them Be Little (and Wear Ninja Turtle Hoodies)


boy laughing I was driving my four–year-old son home from school when he caught me off guard with a discussion about . . . fashion.

“Mommy, why wouldn’t you let me have that Ninja Turtle hoodie?” He asked, with his best, pouty pre-k face. “I really liked that hoodie. That hurt my feelings.”

My first instinct was to laugh. The Ninja Turtle hoodie? Seriously? Is he still talking about that ugly, neon blue cartoon sweatshirt?

Shopping Excursion

You see, weeks earlier I had taken him shopping to pick out some new fall clothes. He needed jeans, some “comfy pants” (his favorite), a few long-sleeved shirts, and an everyday hoodie.

As usual, I guided him toward the “cool” clothes. Striped tops, heather gray henleys, dark-wash jeans, and athletic hoodies. He, of course, was attracted to all the clothing featuring giant cartoon characters and super heroes.

So, we played our game of give and take, where I always win (because I’m buying) and pick out all his clothes for him.

But, for some reason, the cartoon hoodie brought out an impassioned debate.

“Mom, I want this one. Pleeeease? Can I have it? It’s so cool!”

“No, you can’t have it.”

“But why? It has pockets. I can put my hands all the way through! See?”

“No, put it back.”

“Awww, why can’t I have it?”

“Because it’s tacky. And I said no. We’ll find you another one.”

He obliged and put it back, whining a little, and I thought that was the end of the story.

Now, here we are, one month later and he’s still lamenting the sweatshirt of his dreams.

What Next? 

Before I can process what to say next, I hear myself saying what every parent says to their children in November about things they think they will eventually forget about.

“Why don’t you ask Santa Claus for that hoodie for Christmas?”

Oh my gosh, did I just say that out loud?

Did I suggest that he ask an imaginary person with a white beard for an ugly sweatshirt that I refused to let him have? What kind of message am I sending him? If Mommy won’t listen to me, surely someone else will?

It was in that moment that I realized something valuable. I had been put to the test in that store a few weeks ago, and I failed.

That hoodie, in all it’s tackiness, was an expression of my son’s interests. I didn’t just attack the Ninja Turtles that day. I invalidated my child.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Four-year-olds are creative, emotional, and manipulative little people, and we can’t give into their every desires. One day it’s Ninja Turtles, and the next day it’s Superman. I know this, and it is definitely okay to put your foot down when you need to.

But, when it comes to fashion, why do I feel the need to so emphatically draw the line?

My son needed warm clothes, and I was there to buy them. He found something he loved, and I criticized it. And the only reason I did so was because of my pride. I wanted him to look cool and dress the way I thought was best.

His four-year-old self will forgive me and forget all about this hoodie (eventually). But what will his 14-year-old self think when I dismiss and belittle the things he loves? 

hoodie in box In that moment, I learned a lesson about what may seem insignificant, but, in reality, can become something pretty important: My son’s interests matter.

I want to be the mom who supports his interests, lifts him up, and encourages him to become the unique man God created him to be. I don’t want to be the mom who is so preoccupied with my ideals that I can’t allow room for him to be anything different.

And, besides, it’s just a hoodie. He’ll wear it for a season and outgrow it.

He’s only four years old once.

So, I went back to the store and found that ugly sweatshirt he loved. I wrapped it up for Christmas as a gift to my son. Not from Santa, but from me.

To Miller, I love you. Just the way you are.



  1. Way to go, Jenny. This made me tear up a bit. I have four and they have interesting opinions about fashion. But over the years, I’ve come to adore their style and creativity evidenced in their attire. PS. My husband bought our 18 mo boy a really tacky ninja turtle hoodie tee shirt last summer, which I hated, but they both loved. #boys ??

  2. Loved the article Jenny. I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you see the value in letting Miller become the person he was created to be!
    Love you, Sheri


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here