When my son walks around in his pink jacket, he beams with the same passion and pride as he does in any other outfit. He’s just a kid trying to find another puddle to jump in. His somewhat “boyish” wardrobe is accented with purple pants, a yellow polka dotted shirt and even a PJ set covered with flower-adorned unicorns that he rocks whenever the laundry cycle allows. He doesn’t care the color, the fabric or the cut and I assume he won’t for quite some time. He just wants to party and who are we to tell him otherwise?
Obviously this is about much more than clothing and colors and I assume the grinch who recently told me my son shouldn’t wear pink wields many other opinions I wouldn’t agree with. To me, this is about allowing someone to find their place in the universe, understanding where they fit in and where they don’t.
At two-years old, I can’t think of a better time for us to implement this approach, mainly because I recognize all the work I need to do. My little is a blank canvas waiting for layers of life-colored paint but I’ve had 35 years to try and discover myself, collecting plenty of biases (explicit, implicit, positive and negative) along the way. That means I have to acknowledge when I might be guiding his adventure and decide if I need to attempt to change course or shut up and cover my eyes. Things I say and do will influence his self-discovery and I know from experience the “do as I say, not as I do” approach won’t work. I can’t let him hear me condemning flip-flops or swearing at the golden goblin on TV but I do want him to see me holding hands with his mum and thanking the bus driver as we exit.
I believe it’s our job as parents to encourage the adventure, ensuring a safe space for our children to find and define themselves. A space padded with respect and shaded by love. A place where the outside world is a distant buzz and external judgment is deflected with a smile and a shrug.
Just like I don’t want my son to grow up scared of heights I don’t want him to be afraid to cry (believe these are both learned responses). If he shows interest in botany over outer space, I’ll assist in his research all the same. If he wants to play soccer, that’s great but I’ll give him the same loving pep talk if he joins the drill team. I’d love to see him go to college but…sorry kid, you have to go to college.
I can’t think of a better way to express love than giving someone the freedom and support to be whatever it is they were meant to be. If that means I have to get a matching pink shirt, read up on Iris Apfel and plan a family trip around New York Fashion Week, then SIGN ME UP!