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My oldest son has this hat-a fox hat to be precise. It started out as a regular Winter hat that I picked up along with his Winter coat. Then it changed into something else, or rather many things. At any given time it can be a costume of whatever he is pretending to be at the moment. It can also be comfort in a situation that he feels uneasy about.
Today it was unseasonably warm here- freakishly warm-it was 80 degrees in March. As we packed up for a walk to the park, my son, wearing a tee shirt and light pants put on his Winter fox hat and headed for the door.
I told him it was hot out and he would probably want to leave the hat here today. He told me he needed it for his lizard costume (We are knee deep in habitats and all of the workings of cold-blooded animals. During any of our intensive explorations he always ends up in character, he really gets in there!.) Then this happened:
Me: “You really should leave the hat here today, bud.”
Me: “Well, it’s hot, and people might say ‘why are you wearing a Winter hat when it’s so hot out.'”
As soon as it came out of my mouth I wanted to suck it back in. One of the most important things I want to instill in my kids is that they should do what makes them happy, not what other people tell them should make them happy. I want them to learn how to let their decisions come from inside them, not from outside influences.
So why would I say something so contrary to this principle? Why would I tell him that he should do something based on what other people will think? I said it because in all my efforts to instill this strength of character in him, my protecting mother side cringes at the thought of him being hurt by someone’s words of taunt or criticism. But in that moment I realized in an effort to protect him I was taking away the type of experiences that would build that character up in him in the long run. If I wanted him to stand up for himself and for what he wants and believes in , I better not get in his way while he is learning to make his own decisions.
So I took it back.
Me: “Bud, I don’t like what I just said, so I’m going to change it. You wear your hat if that’s what you want to do. Because it does’t matter what other people think. You should do what makes you happy.”
And before I had a chance to explain that to him further, he explained it to me.
O: “Right. Because they can just do what they want to do and I’ll just do what I want to do. It’s fine, mom.”
Yup. It was one of those days. One of those days when my kids teach me something really important. So, really, just a day, like any other day. Learning, changing, growing-no matter what other people think.