If there was a day at the hospital after giving birth when they handed out instruction manuals and rule books; I missed it. Perhaps I was too busy gazing into the eyes of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes on. Perhaps I was falling deeply in love with my babies. Perhaps I was struggling to master breast feeding. Or perhaps I was simply marveling in the pure joy all around me.
Never the less; I missed the “how to” day at the hospital. And even if I had attended, even if that was a real thing they offered to first time parents, there is no way they could cover every single thing. Every obstacle you may encounter. Every triumph you will experience. Every struggle you will navigate. Every decision you will second guess.
So we go out into the world and we become experts in the art of “winging it”. We make decisions we are uncertain of. We navigate obstacles we don’t understand. We lead with love and we hope for the best.
And every day we navigate things we never expected along our parenting journey.
Case in point.
My four year old son wears dresses. He has a beautiful imagination filled with magic and princesses and happily ever afters. He loves to wear dresses and jewelry and wigs and sparkly shoes. He likes to unhook his glasses strap so he can pretend it is a ponytail. He finds random things around the house and turns them into fashion accessories.
When he plays pretend he is usually a princess. Or a damsel in distress. He talks about being a bride and getting married in a dress. He only sings the girl part of most Disney duet songs. He sings and twirls and dances his way through life. He is filled with joy from the top of his wig to the bottom of his sparkly toes.
He started dressing up when he was two years old. It started with my shirts that he pretended were dresses. And his love for dressing up in all the beautiful thing just kept growing.
He does not understand why he has to wear black leggings to dance when the girls in his class can wear pink and purple tutus. He does not understand why he cannot wear dresses to school. He does not understand why anyone else would care what he is wearing. Because he is so sure of who he is. And because he is happy.
And I get that it might be shocking to see a little boy in a princess dress. I understand that other boys his age are playing sports and running wild.
But here is the thing; he is doing those things too. He does the things that make him happy; all of the things. And as his mom my most important job is to love and support him while he figures out who he is.
I give him the freedom to express himself. But, I also set boundaries. I buy him dresses and wigs. But, I also buy him sport shorts and t-shirts with bugs on them. I tell him that I love him every day. I embrace all of the pieces of him. I want him to know that no matter how he chooses to present himself to the world that he will always be my son first.
This is my son. He is wildly creative and confident. He is un-apologetically who is every single day. And the best part about that is that he doesn’t even know who he is yet. But he is figuring it out a little more every day.
One day at a time.
One creative make believe story at a time.
One fort creation at a time.
One Disney princess fashion show at a time.
One play-doh masterpiece at a time.
One dance class at a time.
One basketball practice at a time.
Each and every experience will play an important part of shaping the person he will become. Even dressing up in princess gowns.
Maybe he will grow out of it. Maybe not. The fact the matter is that either way; I don’t care. I only care that he keeps his spark. Keeps his magic. I only hope that he finds who he is and holds tight to it. That he continues to live a life that is bold and creative. That he never worries what other people need him to be. Or need him to do. Or need him to think. Or need him to wear.
This is my simple truth, the only thing I will every truly need my children to be; is happy. The rest just doesn’t really matter.