A few weeks ago my mother got ready to take W on one of their weekly weekend jaunts to Home Depot. They have a routine there that involves checking out all of the new flowers in the gardening section and watching any power tool demos. W has also made friends with several of the forklift drivers at Home Depot and they put on a good show for him. The kid loves a forklift.
So as I got W dressed and ready for their outing, my mother was getting herself ready. We all met down in the living room and I started counting down the moments to when I could dive into a work project.
My mother grabbed her shoes and W looked at her and exclaimed, "Wow! What's THAT!!??"
It took Mother and me a moment before we realized what he was unfamiliar with: her skirt. (She hadn't worn one since before he was born!)
Off they went on their adventure and off I went to my desk to work. A few hours later they were home and exhausted and W was pouty. "I wish I had one. I wish I had a skirt." Mother grabbed another skirt from her closet for W to check out, and of course he was devastated that it didn't fit him. That evening I emailed a friend to see if her daughter had any skirts that she had outgrown.
A week or so passed and W never mentioned having a skirt again.
This last week, I went to the Philly Geek Awards. I decided to wear a long summer dress (with my Chuck Taylors). I came downstairs where W was bashing his monster trucks into his giant mixer, and he looked up at me and gasped. "Mama! What is THAT?!!"
It was variety. Something different. New. Special. Mama was wearing a dress.
I was not surprised at all when he began asking for a skirt again the next day. When I picked him up from school on Monday and asked him where he would like to go for his good behavior reward (positive reinforcement for the win!), I was not surprised when he replied, "Can we go to Target and get a skirt for ME?"
I was surprised that the skirt he picked out was a lively purple crinoline number.
He saw it immediately, didn't want to look at or consider any other options. I could tell from the grin on his face that this was The Skirt. We swiftly made the purchase and were almost to the car before he started clamoring, "Come on! Let's get it on! I want my skirt!" So in the parking lot of Target, I taught him that putting on a skirt is exactly like putting on shorts: one leg, then the other leg, and up. He patted the purple layers with affection and told me, "I have a skirt."
The next morning, my mother helped W get dressed. I stuck my head into her room to rally him downstairs for breakfast. W was tucked up on her bed with Dora playing on her iPad. He looked up, smiled, unfolded himself and exclaimed, "I'm wearing skirt to school!"
This is when I had my moment of panic. I was 100% thrilled for W and his skirt, but what about the rest of the world? Would people be cruel to him? Would other kids crush his skirt spirit? If I tried to convince W to only wear the skirt at home because THEN no one else would see him in it and THEN no one would be an asshole to him was I being a good parent? You know, trying to prevent something...?
As W chomped down on his breakfast cereal, I grabbed my phone and texted my friend Briar. Briar would TOTALLY have wisdom for me. Her son went through a wonderful tutu-wearing phase for ages.
I texted: "He is wearing the skirt to school. Is there anything that I should say to W? To prepare him for any comments? Or do I just let it be?"
Briar responds: "Prepare him. 3-year-old kids should be ok, but some will say stuff. We told [her son] that some people think there are certain clothes for girls and certain clothes for boys. We think they are wrong. We taught him to say, "Anybody can wear anything they want" if taunted.
Armed with this bit of parenting genius, I sat down at the dining room table next to W and began.
Me: I love your skirt!
Him: I love it too!
Me: Some people think that boys can't wear skirts. But they are wrong.
Him: I am wearing a skirt!
Me: Yup! You can wear whatever you want.
And off we went to school.
We got there a bit early and the staff in the office delighted in W's new attire. It is impossible to not grin when seeing him so happy. IMPOSSIBLE. We walked down to his classroom and one of W's best friends walked up to him with, "Hey! Boys can't wear tutus!"
W looked at her like she was crazy. "It's not a tutu. It's a skirt." And he confidently marched into his classroom to find his favorite trucks.
I thought about him at school all day.
At pick-up time, my heart sank when I noticed a familiar crinoline sticking out of the top of his backpack in the hallway. I was bracing myself for a sad story that would break my heart. What events must have happened to have lead up to the removal of skirt?
I found W in the campers room, reading on a bean bag. He dashed up to hug me and I caught the eye of one of his teachers. W didn't look sad or crushed. He wasn't acting like a kid that had his skirt dreams dashed. I asked his teacher, "So... everything go ok today?"
She told me that everything was fine. W happily wore his skirt until it was time to go outside to the playground, and then he said he needed to take it off. OH PHEW!! Totally practical.
When we gathered his backpack he yelled, "My skirt! My skirt! I need to put it on again!" So we did.
I cannot tell you how much this week of parenting W has taught me, shown me, blown me away. It's just a skirt, no big deal. Except for when I didn't blog about it. Or tweet about it. What was up with that? I convinced myself that I wasn't writing about W and his skirt because it was private, personal. When I thought about it more, I realized that I was afraid to write about it because I am oddly fumbling through it. I am terrified to make a wrong turn, terrified that I will damage this fantastic moment of pure joy. Not because I am not a fan of the skirt -- I adore the skirt and I adore seeing W in it.
Also, as Briar pointed out to me, by calling this private I am saying that there is something wrong or embarrassing about what he is doing.By writing this I am telling you, telling W, telling anyone who dares wonder or ask: there is nothing wrong with him wearing a skirt.
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