So, it happened. The big day my sparkly 5-year-old middle son had been excitedly awaiting and the mama worry in my belly had been fretting. The day I would fulfill my son’s request and allow him to wear a dress to school. How would he be received? Would people be kind? Was I doing the right thing?
It was the perfect scenario, actually, in that fortuitous, twist of fate way that life has a way of spinning. My son had asked to wear a dress to school (detailed story here) the week prior and now: PAJAMA DAY!
Who doesn’t love pajama day? Being cuddly cozy all day at school, especially in the chilly winter months. It’s delightful. It also proved to be the perfect opportunity for my son to debut his usual nighttime attire. Not Batman pajama sets or truck-themed footed jammies like my 3-year-old son. Nope. My middle son regularly sports his sister’s outgrown sleepwear: princess nightgowns and pastel hued sleep sets.
So, after all of the carefully examined reasoning I’d conducted just days before which lead me to realize that the only logical, moral, and reasonable answer for the dress question was to allow it, I went about helping my son select his pajama day ensemble. A turquoise hued “mermaid queen” bathrobe over a pink princess nightgown with white sweatpants underneath. The reasons for the sweatpants were threefold: 1) it’s regularly in the 35°F range here this time of year and the kids have outdoor recess, 2) the school requires male students to wear pants, 3) our family has required our daughter to wear pants underneath nightgowns she sported to school pajama days because kids are in school to learn and play not to worry about or have their activities limited by wardrobe malfunctions.
And so, all weekend, the pajama day outfit laid neatly folded on my son’s dresser with the rest of his week’s school outfits. Each day he walked by the colorful pile of sleepwear, touching it wistfully with a gentle smile of anticipation.
On Monday off to school he went in his green button-up shirt, red bowtie, and red pants for “red and green day.” Amidst the holidays activities, he told everyone and anyone who’d feign listening all about his pajama day outfit. He told classmates and teachers, buddies and staff. He was proud. Excited. Fearless.
The next day came. Pajama day! As I sat in the dark pre-dawn of the morning sipping my coffee ahead of my daily home yoga practice, I heard the muffled thud of my kindergartner’s feet hitting the ground, the squeak of his bedroom door yawn open, the whisper of his sleepy footsteps padding into the bathroom. Minutes later he crept downstairs and stood silently, proudly, arms wide, chest lifted, grin broad, entirely dressed in his pajama day ensemble. He was effervescent. Beyond joyful.
“You look beautiful!” I whispered to him from the sofa, setting my near-empty coffee mug down on a coaster. He smiled. I opened my arms and lap, and up he scampered, curling in just right like only he knows how to do. And there we hugged and talked and watched a hairstyling video on YouTube — as per his request — before returning to the morning routine.
He left for school that day awash in excitement, bubbling with unbridled enthusiasm, enveloped in boundless optimism. I convinced myself to follow his lead, but there was a whirring in my belly wondering: “What if?”
“What if,” my inner worry asked, “children are unkind?” “What if,” it haunted, “he cries?” “What if,” it pummeled, “this dims his light and closets him?” “What if,” it persisted, “you were wrong?” Those tears, that pain, that mournful experience would rest on my shoulders, weigh my heart. It would stand — in my mind — as my fault.
I sniffed back tears, shook my head up high and countered my fear, “What if children aren’t unkind? What if he’s happy? What if this brightens his light? What if he’s accepted for exactly who he is? What if I chose right?” And I hushed my fear.
That afternoon at school pick-up I waited. Straining from my shrimpy 5’4″ (on a tall day) vantage point to see my son’s face as soon as he exited the building. My daughter exited first and my 3-year-old and I greeted her with a welcoming hug. Then we saw him, nightgown frills peeking out from underneath his winter coat.
He was beaming! Glowing! Brimming with happiness, still proudly sporting all the pastel layers of his pajama day ensemble.
“How did it go?” I asked him, kneeling before him, searching his blue eyes for truth. “Great!” He said. “Everyone was nice?” I asked, my knees chilled by the asphalt beneath me. “Yep!” He chirped, shimmying the straps of his too-big purple backpack onto his delicate shoulders. “No one said a thing?” I said, trying to muffle my surprise. He shook his coifed head.
I looked at him. Really looked at him. He was smiling wide with eyes sparkling. I deep sighed from the inside out. So off we went to the minivan as if it was any other day.
Because, as much as my worry had told me otherwise, that’s all this day was. It was simply a day, like any other day. Just with mermaid-princess pajamas, and a sparkly boy whose self-acceptance, fearlessness, and optimism proved that unfounded fear is no reason to hide, deny, or change. That concern over the unknown is not worth implying a child should be ashamed of or change who they are. That allowing my son to be who he is unfettered by my fears was the only way to go.
I let my son wear a dress to school, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.