Sunday, October 24, 2010
Let Your Freak Flag Fly: a Parenting Core Value
My mother was a creative mommy. We made our own holiday decorations, she wrote stories for me, & she could fabricate costumes out of nothing more than a sweatsuit, some yarn & a glue gun. She also was great about encouraging me to express myself creatively. I spearheaded neighborhood talent shows (with just two of us planning/starring, it was really easy to get the plum parts!). I sang, I danced, I crafted. I dabbled in fashion.
Fashion as a pursuit rather than a means of keeping your bum warm was a completely foreign concept to my mom. Not that she was a clothes disaster, she just didn't enjoy clothes the way I did. From a VERY young age I wanted to chose my own clothes & would reject items that I found sub-par. I was an eclectic child & had a fashion sense that was more obscure-runway-concept-show than eight-year-old-in-Iowa.
All of this back story is to lead up to this: the day I decided to wear a shower cap to school. In the old days, hotels would give cellophane shower caps along with their other garden variety toiletries. I don't know what they were ACTUALLY used for, but at some point I fell in love with them. I would put one on & my long, wispy blond hair would puddle in soft swirls in the bottom & I just loved it. Looking back, what I really needed was a 40's era beautician to pin my hair up...but what I had was a shower cap. I wore that thing all of the time at home until one day I announced that I wanted to wear it to school.
My mother let me do it. I know that it probably killed her to send me into the lions den looking like a cross between an 80 year old woman & an 8 year old girl. I know that she probably had a list of nasty playground nicknames running through her head as she waved good-bye from the door. As I walked to school, I know she was probably worried that I would get chewed up & spit out by the cruelty machine that is second grade. But at the time, she didn't let me see any of that. She let me make my choice because it was what expressed me at that moment.
I'm sure this would be a much more entertaining story if I could remember the insults that were surely hurled my way. But that isn't what made a forever impression on me. What I remember, & hold dear, is the mother who let me make a choice that was ever so slightly non-normative (ok, downright weird) to express myself. My mother chose to foster my imagination rather than make me conform. When I was expecting my first child, this memory came flooding back to me & I knew that I wanted to do the same for my kids. Letting my kids revel in all of the campy glory of Marlo Thomas as she sings "Free to be You & Me" is a priority for me as a parent & a value I hold dear.
Thus, I present to you our first jack-o-lantern. He has one square eye & one rectangle eye because Link insisted upon it & I managed to keep my mouth shut. I caught myself before I said, "but Link, eyes are the same shape." Who am I to tell him how eyes are shaped in his imagination? My job is say, "that's a super idea!" & try to keep his hands away from the knives as Dave made "Chair" the lopsided jack-o-lantern come to life.