As soon as we pulled into the parking lot of Denny’s I saw her.
Although she was only in 4th grade, she was getting so tall. The pink cowboy hat only added to her height. She was walking towards us with a huge smile. I knew her weekend with Grandpa at the rodeo was exactly what she needed and wanted. It was the end of the school year and either the kids were restless for Summer or the hormones had just started kicking in for all them, but changes were definitely happening.
We ate breakfast with my Dad and she told Wayne and me all about the horses and bulls and the excitement about getting her new cowboy hat. It was a lovely shade of pepto-bismol pink. I noted the feather on the side hanging onto a roach clip.
“Really, Dad?” I asked. “What?” he asked. “She doesn’t know what it is. She wanted the bright pink hat with the white feather”. He chuckled at our response.
Uggghhh! Well, as long as she just wears it at home we will be fine I thought.
I heard her bathroom door shut early the next morning.
“What was she up doing so early?” I thought.
Wayne and I had bought her a Hello Kitty alarm clock when she was in preschool to encourage her to get up with her own alarm. The plan had worked and all through school she learned to get up with her own alarm.
(One of the times we didn’t fail at parenting!) I know from talking with friends that kids getting up without a fight was something of a parental victory for us!
I got out of bed and went downstairs to get my morning coffee and try to wake up a little while she was getting ready.
She called me from upstairs to help. She needed help doing her hair a certain way. I made my way to her bathroom and her pink outfit stopped me in my tracks. You know when you have the gnawing feeling in your stomach when your kid is about to do something you just know is a mistake? Well….mine chose to dress in pink corduroy pants, pink long sleeved top, and pink cowboy boots. AND the pink cowboy hat.
This just seemed wrong. Who bought her these clothes anyway? (raises hand). I didn’t expect she would wear all these clothes together!
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “I need to do my hair in two braids to match my theme”. Theme?! “Um, ok, but what’s the outfit for? Is this country and western day or something?” She stopped and looked straight at me “No Mom, I’m wearing my new hat and I needed an outfit to match.”
I was speechless. I want to tell you I’m the type of mother that will let her child dress as she likes to express her individuality, but I’m not. I want her clothes to match, but not like this.
How was I going to explain to her this just wasn’t going to work? Isn’t it against the rules to wear a hat to school? I was sure of it.
“Babe, I don’t think you are allowed to wear a hat at school”. She looked at me as if I had a third eye and said “Sure, boys wear hats all the time. Why can’t girls?” (“Because yours is pepto-bismol pink, that’s why”) “I’m not sure. I have never seen a girl with a hat on at school.” “Mom, you just have to take it off in class.”
I had to think of something quick. This wasn’t the end of the world, but I just knew in my heart she was going to get clobbered with stares and smirks all day. from the other kids at school. I tried to convince her that maybe it was too hot out or she may get the outfit dirty. She wasn’t having any of it. So, I helped her with her braids and we ate breakfast and hopped in the car, hat and all.
As soon as we pulled up I got nervous. I didn’t want to see my beautiful daughter get laughed at. There really was nothing for me to do, but be honest with her.
“Babe, there may be some older kids who will laugh at you today because of your outfit. How do you feel?” She looked at me with a calm face and said “I know. I don’t care what they think. I like my outfit.” I was so thankful to have sunglasses on so I could hide the tears welling up in my eyes. I didn’t know whether to cry because I was embarrassed about my attitude towards my daughter or because I was so grateful she was so much wiser than I was.
She kissed me on the cheek and shut the car door. The assistant principal, who monitors the gate, stopped to say something to her then she smiled and waved me on. I went home and thought about what I would wear at her age. I don’t think I was that brave.
The day passed with no phone call from school. I thought I would get a call that she wasn’t “feeling well” or that I needed to pick up that damn hat because it was a distraction, but I didn’t .
I pulled up to the school and saw her immediately. She was the little girl with the bright pink hat and a big smile on. She hopped in the car and said “Hi Mommy”. I was relieved she was so happy.
“Hi Babe, how was school?” She did not pause. “School was great. My teacher and the principal loved my outfit.”
“Really? You didn’t get made fun of by the other kids?” I asked.
“Yeah, a bunch of sixth graders laughed and pointed, but I didn’t care.” She said calmly and stared straight ahead.
“Are you sure your ok with it? Did you tell the teacher?” I asked.
“Oh no, I don’t care what they think. I ignored them and they left to go play ball”.
Now it was my turn to smile. I was never prouder of my child.
You see, I wouldn’t have worn the all pink outfit with braids in my hair. I would have worried while getting ready that I was going to be laughed at. I would play it safe and wear something plain so I wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. I would not have been as brave.
My husband and I have always tried to instill confidence in our daughter and show her love and encourage her to be true to herself. These attributes are not something we had a full supply of growing up. I am grateful we had the courage to give to her what we sometimes don’t have ourselves.
Mamas, our daughters learn from our actions. They are always watching us. Sometimes we have to “Do as I say, not as I do”. But isn’t it time to think more of ourselves and ignore those who you think will be watching and laughing and judging ? Isn’t it time to give ourselves a break from morphing ourselves into what everyone else thinks we should be or do or dress like? You have permission to go out into that playground with your favorite pink outfit and be yourself! You never know who is watching……