Of Pride and Prejudice

First impressions make a large impact on how we think of someone, even before we say hello. Based on that first glance, we may not even wish to introduce ourselves. We're all aware of this glaring fact, though we're not so quick to say that we ourselves judge others. Denial is a beautiful thing.

I've always been careful about what clothing I've allowed Micah to wear in public. Those first impressions of a child with an obvious disability, coupled with hand-me-down clothing, screams a message that I don't want others to think of my son. I want Micah's first impression in the world he ventures into to be something other than pity or contempt. For that reason, I've been careful to cultivate Micah's look to be one of a child that is much loved. It's obvious that his parents care for him, and take great pride in him, even at first glance.

But Micah has been undermining my intentions. This is the year that he has decided what is and is not acceptable to wear. This year, jeans are not acceptable. The Kid In Sweatpants is now my kid. I spent a small fortune on straight-leg sweats, sweats with racy stripes down the sides, sweats with cargo pockets, sweats that I made with sporty numbers stitched onto the leg. Sweats that would look like a polished outfit when coupled with tops, and not like the kid was wearing his pajama pants to school.

This is the year that Micah has decided what is and is not acceptable to wear. He wants shirts that are screen printed with super heroes and cartoon characters, tie-dyed tees, and stained hand-me-downs from his brother. We pick and choose what goes into his dresser so that no matter the choices, he generally looks like a kid that has a caring family.

This morning Micah insisted on wearing a pair of sweats that he had outgrown. We kept them anyway because they make awesome pajama bottoms. We call them his manpris. He paired these with a short sleeved tee, and although he matched, and although it's a balmy 35 degrees, I think long sleeves would better suit him at school where the temperatures are cooler than they are in our home.

Clearly, Micah was one of those kids today. The one in obvious hand-me-downs, with ill-fitted clothing, with a family that doesn't care what he looks like. And it makes his disability so much more evident. It draws pitying stares, or dismissive glances. But there's a fine line here and I'm not sure where it lies. On one side is my pride. It's that simple, but it's large. On the other side is Micah's pride. That is large, too. I want him to be proud of the fact that he can dress himself, and happy when he looks in the mirror.

This morning I made Micah change into jeans and a long sleeved shirt. He was not happy, but he complied. This morning I think I may have made the wrong decision. He may have gotten chilly at school, but otherwise his outfit wasn't a safety issue. I have allowed others to influence how I parent. I have chosen to allow what others think of Micah to take preference over what Micah wants. There are times and places to fight over clothing, but daily to school doesn't need to be one of them.

In the future, if you see my son walking down the street in his faded manpris and his brother's cast-off shirt, know that my pride has bowed that day to allow my child to make his own choices. I will be the one walking tall behind him, in a matching, season-appropriate outfit, smiling with love at my son who has made his own choices in life.

18 comments:

Flea said...

I wanna see him go to school in that cowboy get up you pictured him in this weekend. Too freakin' hilarious. Good for you, mom!

Flea said...

P.S. It's hard to imagine that Micah lets you put clothes on him for school. :)

Viv said...

No worries, all too soon the manpris will just look like gym shorts. ;)

TUC said...

So so true! We try to do the same for our darling... so that others can see right away that she is precious to us. I dread the day when she wants to pick out her own clothes, though I will be excited that she can do it!

Michelle said...

I struggle with that a lot myself with Mister Man. While I want him to feel compentent in what he does, I always want him to be sure he's minimizing the target on his back, especially as he gets older and kids get crueller.

Little Miss frequently wears wacky outfits to school, and I don't blink an eye. I know she can take care of herself no matter what. Him... I'm not so sure. And I still dither on that.

Fishsticks and Fireflies said...

I am completely guilty of going out-of-my-way to make sure that my kids are dressed in a way that does not make them look like 'those' kids - which is ridiculous to me, because they are kind, gentle, loving, happy kids who should be free to be whatever they want to be . . . even if it is the kid in the short-pants with his tee shirt on backwards. Awesome lesson (as alwasy!)

Katy said...

goodness. I struggle with this a LOT--I want Charlie to only wear matching, attractive outfits. I want people to see him at his absolute best because he's already starting at a disadvantage.

Funny, because if I didn't know about the special needs angle, I'd swear this was a conversation about me and my mother and middle school--I had one idea about fashionable and she had another.

Laski said...

Absolutely nothing wrong with manpris. Nope. Nothin' at all.

And, I've totally met you . . . IRL. We all let the voices of others fill our heads from time to time--we are human, we are looking and searching for answers, for help--there is no right or wrong. We just try to do the best we can.

And you, you so clearly do the very best you can, I've seen you in action. You rock this whole mom gig. Totally.

Enough said.

HalfAsstic.com said...

Awww, Karen. What he wears DOES matter. It matters in that he is warm enough or cool enough or that he can dress himself or not, or that people can see how loved he is by the way he is dressed or not dressed.
It matters to you and it will probably never matter to Micah. So meet him halfway or where ever you need to meet him and come to terms with THAT whole thing. ;-)

Leanne said...

Blah. I hear you. It's okay to waver back and forth on this one I think. Everyday is a new battle it seems and we just have to make it up as we go along. You're thinking it through so you'll be fine. At least that's what I'm hoping will happen over here with my crew. I love them so in the end, we'll be okay... or in therapy. Sigh.

Logical Libby said...

My Mom still tries to dress me, and I'm 35. Sometimes a little parental guidance is needed.

I love the manpris...

utmomof 5 said...

We all deal with this battle. I have actually called my kids teachers and explained that I am not a neglectful parent but that my child is making their own choices today on what they are wearing.

"Yes I realize it is snowing and my child is in short sleeves and sandals. It is called natural consequences, when she realizes she is cold she will also realize her mom may have been correct when she suggested and jacket and socks."

Carol N. said...

When Liam (My middle typical boy) dresses himself, he often chooses old favourites that are too small (a belly shirt, really?)

Anyway, I sometimes wish I had a sticker that I could put on him that says, "I dressed myself today!"


We'll see how things go as Aidan gets older and makes more choices.

My gut instinct is to honour both and try to strike a balance.

Burgh Baby said...

What Laski said? Ditto.

Karen said...

utmomof5 - I hear you loud and clear. I've explained a few outfits already myself.

Carol N. - A sticker would be perfect!

Gina said...

We all make these decisions sometimes. I try to let Emily have as much control as I can, but sometimes I just can't do it. And as much as I'd like to say that it is not because I car what people think, I can't. I'm human.

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

I certainly hope that no one thinks Bob's Zubaz pants were my choice. Ever.
But he loves them so.

just jamie said...

I love how you put words to the feeling that consumes many of us -- the voices of others influencing our parenting choices. That boy could be wearing a Strawberry Shortcake nightgown and with one glance it would be evident that that boy is loved.