This is a post I wrote over two years ago, which is featured in my new book by the same title. Hope you enjoy it!
I’m shoe shopping with Thomas; always a touch-and-go affair. Today is no different. He glumly surveys the offerings in the boys section.
“They’re all black, white or blue, Mom,” he laments, “and the only decorations are super-heroes”. He has long felt the unfairness of his limited options, especially compared to the choices available to his twin sisters. “The girls always get the fancy stuff,” he moans (and this has, in fact, often been our experience – not just in footwear, but in most apparel). He feels it is a gross injustice, and would lodge a complaint if he could figure out just who was at fault here. He wants a pair of sparkly sneakers, something fancy, something eye-catching, something that dances on his feet
A few years ago, this would have been the point at which I tried to cajole him into settling for something. I would have pointed out the snazzy bright red Spidermans, or the wow-factor of the soles that lit up with each step of the black pair. In my heart, I would be uncomfortable, sad for him, slightly ill-at-ease with his clear preference for shoes on the other side of the store. Not so today.
“You’re right, Thomas,” I say as I steer him toward the girls’ section. “Let’s see what we can find over here.” I can feel him searching my face as I turn my attention to finding his size. He’s checking me out. Are you for real? Is this okay? he seems to be asking. I point to several different styles. “So, any of these catch your eye?” I ask him. Yes, I am for real. Yes, this is fine, I try to communicate. I sense the tension drain from his body. He lets out a big breath and begins perusing the sneakers. His eye fall on a gorgeous pair, sort of a pastel bluish-purple infused with silver. They fit perfectly.
For a moment, Thomas is thrilled. Then I see his eyes cloud with misapprehension. He’s worried about what a friend will say. This friend goes to school and has several older siblings. He is well-versed in the ways of the world. He points out anything he notices about Thomas that could be considered “girly”. There, in the shoe aisle, we have a brief but heartfelt discussion. I tell him that he is at a cross-road. Before he can decide whether to purchase these sneakers, he must decide whether it is more important to him to wear something that gives him great joy and pleasure or to wear something that meets with his friend’s approval. He wants to know my opinion, and I tell him that I hope he’ll listen to his own heart. After a moment’s hesitation, he informs me that he wants the sneakers. “After all, I can always just wear my old boyish ones around Peter,” he adds.
I think to myself how different this trip would be if Thomas attended school. How would the constant pressure to conform have affected him? Would he risk being teased? Or would he wall off parts of himself, these essential but “uncool” pieces of his precious soul? How long would it take before that spark of joy I love to behold in him flickered and died? I am glad I won’t have to find out.
I reflect on the group of homeschoolers of which we are a part; a wildly varied lot with one thing in common: parents who possess a deep love for their kids that inspires them to take this homeschooling journey. We are a motley but loveable crew; some boys with short hair, some with long. Some with ordinary names, others graced with names that sing of other times and places. Some boys who play Bakugan and some boys who knit (and, of course, some who love to do both!), and even some who wear a pair of flowered pants now and again when the mood strikes. They are mostly like any other group of kids, but with one crucial difference. This bunch has learned the inestimable quality of acceptance. They may not all be best friends. They may get on each other’s last nerve every so often, but almost never do they question another’s right to be just who he or she is. It’s really pretty glorious to behold, and I breathe out a silent prayer of thanks that we have been brought into communion with these wise and wonderful little people.
Later on the same afternoon, Peter shows up at the door, wanting Thomas to come out and play. Two pairs of sneakers-one old, and one new- lay strewn on the floor of the foyer. Thomas sits down and puts on a pair. The new pair. I smile.
Sparkle on, my boy, sparkle on.