So, I laughed a lot when I read the post, “Guilt by Association: When You’re a rule-following wife married to a rule-breaking renegade“. Because I am so bad at this behavior. Or maybe, I’m so good at it? I’m talking about Rule-following. And, I related to every single thing she worries about in breaking the rules. Every one.
Today was a classic example of how I just can’t let go of being a rule-follower. Kyle was getting ready for preschool and we were running around like usual trying to get dressed, remember to brush our teeth, (I frequently forget to brush mine while encouraging my kids to brush theirs) put shoes on the baby, grab my grocery list, etc. All of a sudden, we were ready. I looked at the clock and we had five minutes to spare. Score!
So, in my usual fashion, I thought to myself, “That can’t be right. What am I forgetting?”
Then I remembered. UUUGGGH. Dress up day at preschool. But, not just any old dress up day. It was, “dress as the person that you want to be when you grow up”. I secretly hate days like this. Like red sock day at my daughter’s school. I don’t have red socks!! OK??? Did I go and buy some for her? You betcha.
Anyway, so Kyle always says he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. And, a couple of days ago, I tried to remind myself to ask a friend if they had a firefighter costume, or hat, or something, because surprisingly, we had none. WHAT? But, I forgot.
So, I decide, “Well, maybe he won’t say firefighter and we can come up with something else.” So, I remind him he is supposed to dress up and ask him, “So. What do you want to be buddy?” (Remember. The clock is ticking) He replies, “I know! A pirate!”
“Hmmm.” I respond. “Well, pirates aren’t really real.” It was the best I could come up with. He looks at me like, “Huh?” and I say, “I know!” in my most enthusiastic tone…”how about a doctor? You can take your doctor’s kit!?” Kyle is such a sweetie. He said, “OK”.
So, I try to think fast. He needs a white coat or scrubs or something. I grab a white short sleeved dress shirt of my husband’s. A toy stethoscope. And a nametag of my husband’s from PA school. Voila. I created a costume in about 2 minutes.
I thought it looked pretty dang good.
Kyle is staring at himself in the mirror for a minute and gets a sad look on his face.
Me: “What’s wrong?”
Kyle: “I just don’t want to be a doctor”.
Me: “OK. Then, just say you want to be like your daddy. You can say he’s a PA and he takes care of people’s hearts. How does that sound?”
So, proud of myself, I send my husband the above picture in a text message. He replies:
“Awesome! Did he not know that at that age being a superhero is a legitimate option too?”
He was joking of course. But, I immediately felt deflated. Why didn’t I just let him be the pirate? Why was I so concerned that he have on just the “right” thing? At this point though, we were already on our way to preschool. So, no going back.
But, then I analyzed this the whole way there and back. Why did I have to be such a rule follower? Was I damaging my kids by not giving them more freedom to be who they want to be? For one, he didn’t really have to dress up in the first place. It is preschool, after all. Second, what would have been the harm if he had shown up as a pirate? Maybe the kids would have giggled because it was a “silly” idea. But, most likely, they would have thought he looked cool and moved on with their 3 & 4 year old lives.
I always said (in my own head before I had kids) as a mother I would be the kind of mom that would let my teenager dye her hair purple if she wants. Or let my kid wear a costume out in public. Even when it wasn’t Halloween. But, here I am doing the exact opposite of that. Why? It’s because the little preschool calendar hanging in my kitchen said, “Dress up day. Who do you want to be when you grow up?” To me, that was a rule. And, it couldn’t be broken.
For me, I don’t want to project onto them my need to always have things be perfect. I want them to grow up free-spirited. Not afraid to be who they want to be. Not afraid to be different. I envied those kind of people growing up. Some part of me wanted to be the “weird girl” with the purple hair and mis-matched socks that didn’t give a damn, said whatever she wanted, and laughed off people laughing at her.
But, it was more important to me to be liked.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there has to be some boundaries. There has to be rules. I am after all, a Mormon. So, you know, we have lots of rules. But, I do want to let some things go that don’t really matter. Like if they wear a pirate costume to preschool. He did seem happy when I picked him up from school, but when we got home and I was getting him out of the car he said to me,
“I kinda don’t like being a doctor.” Point taken, kid. I did gather from him that there was one kid dressed as a librarian, and one as an alligator.
There is always another chance. There will be another dress up day at school. There will be another opportunity to get it right. So, I’m not going to dwell. But, I’m thankful for the lesson, anyway. That’s what motherhood is about to me. Figuring out life as you go and hoping you don’t screw your kids up too much in the process.
And, in other news, I had this conversation with Kyle a couple of days ago:
K: “There is a girl at school named Isabel. And I love her.”
M: Trying to hold back the shock and surprise, “Why do you love her?”
K: “Because I like the color of her hair”
M: “What color is it?”
So, I guess he has a thing for blondes. Typical man. 🙂
And, here’s a fun game. Find the child in this picture.