Why Can't We All Just Wear Poodle Skirts?

Micah loves dress-up clothes, and I kind of love that he loves them. Everyone needs a little super hero in their lives on occasion. He wore dress-up clothes to his previous school, and even the principal looked forward to seeing him walk in the doors, anticipating how he would be dressed.

It was several months into the school year before Micah felt comfortable enough at his new school to wear dress-up clothes, and when he did, he went big. He pulled out the poodle skirt and wore it over top his jeans. He's since worn the Grim Reaper's long black gown, a pirate vest and loot bag, a cowboy bandanna and gun holster, and assorted hats. It was just recently that I became aware of a no-dress-up policy. I also became irked, mostly because nobody told me where the school stood on dress-up clothes, but instead had taken it upon themselves to yell at Micah when he showed up in costume. The boy can't talk, so he's not going to com home and tell me that he got in trouble for dressing up. And the boy is stubborn, so if he takes the notion to dress up despite being told something to the contrary, he'll dress up. I'm just asking for a note to be sent home, that's all. Because it's not in the school handbook.

I finally had the chance to talk to his aide about this policy. Turns out, it's not a school policy, but a teacher-imposed one. Because of Micah. It appears that when Micah wears dress-up clothes, he's so distracted by the awesomeness of them that he fails to focus on school work. Completely understandable, of course. Showing off your pirate wear would definitely be a hindrance to learning. I get that. Ultimately, I send Micah to school to learn things like reading and math, and if dress-up clothes are going to prevent him from learning such things, I'll fight the battle at home so that the teachers won't be fighting it at school.

But then things were said that I was not down with. If the conversation would have stopped right there, we could have parted on agreeable terms and that would have been the end of it. Sadly, that's not how events transpired. The conversation continued, and the question was asked, "And don't you want him to fit in with the other kids?" The answer is simple. NO. I do NOT want Micah to fit in with the other kids. Not any more than I want my other kids to fit in with crowds. It took me years to realize that standing out because you're you is the very best thing that you can be. To that end, I encourage my kids to be themselves, even (or especially!) if that makes them different than anyone else. If you're confident in who you are, you'll rarely get mocked for it. In fact, people admire those bold enough to stand apart. It's what we all long for, but few are brave enough to actually do.

I answered the question aloud. "No, I want Micah to be who he is. Until he realizes that he's doing something different than the other kids, I figured I'd just let him dress up." And the conversation decided that walking in the mud wasn't enough, it would lie down and take a roll. "But Karen, he does realize that he's different. He shows off his clothes because he knows the other kids aren't wearing them." My head was spinning, but I managed to grasp a thought that was swirling in bold colors. If he knows he's different, and he still loves to dress up, why are we trying to make him be somebody that he's not? Why must kids all conform to a standard, so that by the time they graduate high school (or 4th grade!) they're all Hollister-wearing zombies who think and say and do the same things? We're not raising individuals anymore, we're turning out cookie cutter kids who don't know who they are, much less how to express themselves.

I struggled to calm my thoughts, and find an acceptable way to say "you can't fix my son by making him be like everyone else. He's different enough. Please don't give him the complex that being different is a bad thing. It's simply different." But I couldn't say that, because my mind wouldn't stop swirling with frustration. I heard other things like, "and if he dresses up, other kids will want to..." and I could see both sides of that argument. While there's nothing at all wrong with dressing up, I suppose if a whole school did it, it really would be a distraction. And then there would be inappropriate things. And weapons. And it would be chaos. And I'm not expecting anyone to make an exception for Micah because he's different. In that respect, he really does need to fit in. But is it too much to ask to just let him be who he is? Today's conversation was so much more than about dressing up. For the first time, perhaps ever, I was forced to see Micah the way the world sees him. My son is broken, and needs to be fixed.

Excuse me while I cry quietly for the rest of my life.


Debbie in CA : ) said...

I'm putting on my Poodle Skirt of Solidarity right now! Let's ALL be different together and then no one will be. [If only . . . ]

Moms-of-specials have different battles but it's really the same war: The World Wants to Devour Our Kids. Special or otherwise. I, for one, keep praying and believing that God didn't use cookie cutters for a reason, and I'm not about to follow mankind down that monotone road.

I'll have a pink poodle skirt, opalescent light sabre, and tiara with sparkles . . . to go, because I've got some errands to run.

I just love the spunk in your family -- because I see it every day in my own.

I keep you in my prayers and you keep me glad to know you and Micah and all the rest that your life holds.

<3 Debbie

HalfAsstic.com said...

First of all:
If it's not against the rules in the darn school handbook, it's not against the rules! I spent quite a lot of time pouring over the establishment's rules and regulations to find loopholes when the stupid school district went to "standardized dress". It got me called into the principals office a good number of times. I was found to be very snotty and probably a bit obnoxious as I explained things such as; "it's not a logo, it's a MONOGRAM. (Nothing about that in the handbook.)
Anyway, I was determined MY kids wouldn't look like a number as the idiots wanted. Fought that crap to the bitter end.
Micah has rights and if his poodle skirt is long enough, the school board can kiss your.... Well, you get the idea.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Well if that's what the world sees, the world is wrong Karen and I know deep down, you know it. If Micah is happy, I wouldn't worry about the world. ((Hugs))

Karen Deborah said...

Ditto Debbie and she knows FIRST hand!! This post is sad and I thank God that the school year is almost over and he can get away from the teacher who has bought the Big Brother socialistic propaganda hook, line and sinker. Sadly this is so much bigger than one little boy. You are getting a glimpse of the end of America as we have known it. The drums of conformity and politcal correctness have been banging in the deep for a long time.
Don't cry. You know better he is not broken and he does not need fixing. He is a delightful spunky boy and that teacher doesn't phase him a bit.
This needs to be another WAKE UP to us who may be able to change the course before it's too late.
So much to PRAY about!!!!!

Sarah said...

Some people place such a high value on conformity that they thing anyone sticking out is "broken." I love the way you stick up for all of your children's rights to be individuals.

Carol N. said...

Hey Karen,

I'll share this with my Education Students. It reminds me of the John Lennon Quote on happiness:

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life."

Take care, and give Micah a little squeeze from Canada :o)