Unless you’re new around these parts, you know that my son Jacob loves to dress up.
As Willy Wonka.
As Harry Potter.
It’s so much a part of him, that I hardly pay attention anymore. It’s become normal to see him in a cape, using a straw as a wand or fashioning his plastic grocery cart and stuffed ponies into a sleigh.
And if I’m being honest about it, I love this wonderfully creative side of him. I mean, yes, it’s funny when he’ll say something profound like, “I can’t wear the Scrooge hat to be Willy mom, because Willy’s hat is purple and this is black” and it can be frustrating when, the beard for his Santa outfit finally arrives and he declares that he will needing another new beard, “a curly one, like the one in Fred Claus” for a month afterwards.
But underneath it all, is the soul of a little boy who loves to play and pretend.
As parents, I believe John and I have always tried to encouraged and celebrate the talents and of each boy without passing judgment on either of them. I mean Gio loves cars and names them after every sports team he can learn, (many times letting the matchbox that represents the DEVILS or the PHILLIES win, much to the heartache of his NY loving daddy).
There are days when we are leaving the house and Jacob is still deciding who he will be. I will see him contemplating the part he wants to play and by the time we get buckled into the car, he is sporting a costume of some kind.
So it happened on a day back in January that we were going into New Jersey to visit my mother in law and Jacob had decided that he would take all the trappings of being Ebenezer. The hat, the coat (the fireman coat from an older costume), his black leather gloves and the plastic part of a microphone stand that he felt made a much better walking stick all found their way into our car.
We visited with family and then made our way to a very large, very busy mall. The wind whipping when we parked so I tried to talk my son out of bringing along his costume, but instead of a putting a heavy jacket on, he proved his stubborn Capricorn spirit and got out of the car, holding his walking stick.
For the first time ever in the lives of our sons, my husband looked at Jacob and snickered.
“Jacob, you can’t go into the mall dressed like that! Everyone will laugh at you, you look silly.”
My own eyes welled as I just looked at the man I married, “What are you doing?” I hissed through my teeth. “You can’t tell him that!”
“C’mon honey, it’s freezing” he said, grabbing Gio’s hand and propelling him to the sidewalks.
Tears pricking at the corner of my eyes, I looked down at Jacob. “Buddy, are you sure you want to go into the mall like this?”
His little face was undeterred, “Yep. Let’s go.” His voice sing-songy.
He held my hand on one side, on the other; he imitated the limp he had perfected over the past two years, through crosswalks, in between cars and right up into Macy’s.
Once inside, I asked again, if he wanted to shed any of the costume.
“NO.” he answered.
So we walked and I watched people watch my son. You see from the time they were born, everyone has always paid attention to my sons. From the busy city streets of New York City to the hallways of our local malls, eyes are drawn to both of them and this day was no different. Yet, on that day, I watched them see past the similarities of clothes and faces, and see that one child was cruising the mall dressed in a black coat, a plastic HAPPY NEW YEAR top hat and walking with a limp.
Many of the teenagers loved this, their smiles starting at Jacob and stopping at my own as they lifted their eyes to me. Of the others (other parents and people of different colors and cultures), some were concerned “Why is he limping?, some others thought him cool and eccentric “nice hat buddy!”, “love your costume!” and of course there were those that just didn’t get it, “Why is she letting him dress like that?” , “who is he supposed to be?” accompanied by snickering laughter that can only mean that they are making fun of him.
I hated thinking that they felt that way about a little boy who was just enjoying the fun in pretending and I couldn’t believe that maybe John felt that way about Jacob too.
I looked down at my very creative little son and said, “I think you’re the coolest Jakey, I love when you dress up.”
“I make a very good Scrooge” he agreed.
And later, when John and I were alone, we talked about how he felt. How we as parents had to let Jacob be who he was, even if it meant that it might make us uncomfortable from time to time. We agreed that our job was to protect him from the hate and misunderstanding of the world, not to perpetuate it.
Since then, John and I have talked a lot about how there will be plenty of times in their growing up when we might not agree with the “costumes” they choose, but we have to respect their choices.
The most important thing is to let our sons know that we love them, just the way they are, and that we accept Jacob (or whoever he is today.) *wink*
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Shell and her amazing Link
Pour Your Heart Out.
Thank you for 3 years of letting us have a soft place to unburden our hearts my friend.
Here’s to 3 MORE!