Finding the perfect costume is always high on the priority list. While the girls take their time, weighing their different options, Thomas has always made his choice with speed and decisiveness. Thomas is remarkably gifted when it comes to knowing himself.
In my book, A Pair of Sparkly Sneakers, I write about this gift of Thomas’s: how wonderful it is, and yet how it both perplexed and challenged me when he was younger. One of my biggest struggles was letting go of culturally mandated gender roles. You see, Thomas had an eye for fashion, and he felt no need to limit himself to the trucks and superheroes found in the boys’ section of the department stores. He liked what he liked. Sometimes it was a belt decorated with skeletons. Sometimes it was a fleece nightgown. To him, any choice that caught his eye was equally valid. To me, well, let’s just say it wasn’t so cut and dry. Like many in our culture, I was far more comfortable with girls crossing into more traditionally “masculine” areas than vice-versa. Somehow a “tom-boy” dressed in jeans or playing soccer seemed so much more acceptable than a boy wearing a flowered hat or playing with dolls.
But in my journey back to inner wisdom, I eventually came to a place of acceptance. And as Thomas continued to teach me with his simple but profound wisdom, I ultimately came to embrace and celebrate all of him, not just the parts that fit comfortably into gender stereotypes. I’m so grateful that I discovered this while Thomas was still young enough for it truly to matter. Before he looked in my eyes and saw reflected there an image of a “flawed” child – a child who was different – a child who didn’t belong. Before he had to choose whether to hide himself from me, or distance himself from my judgment.
It is a beautiful, wondrous thing to behold Thomas be so true to himself. He is so genuine and authentic, and I give him all the credit for this. But I know all too well that I could have destroyed it, and how narrowly we escaped that reality.
Because we chose this unschooling life, Thomas is free to be himself and to reinvent himself as his interests and tastes change. He is not tied to gender stereotypes. He is not held hostage by the fear of being different. He is wonderfully, gloriously himself – even when he’s in costume.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Here are two, from the last two Halloweens.
Looking good, buddy. Looking good.