Parenting is not easy.
Some days are definitely easier than others. Sometimes it flows with sweetness and light and other times it feels like it takes actual rocket science to really understand the dynamics at work with kids. On some choice days, it feels like combat and, personally, I find fourth grade homework combat to be the worst.
Lately, after nearly fifteen years of parenting, the parenting vault has kindly open one of it’s windows to me. Stuff I probably should have caught on to a long time ago but I was too busy doing it my own way to really take notice. Parenting stuff that I have listened to others quote for years but that never quite sunk into my brain. Yesterday, I got it…the truth that hit me like a brick wall …drumroll please…here goes…
The TRUTH is: Sometimes you have to let go of the rule book and choose your battles. I know, I know…totally simple and you’ve heard it too but, really and truly, The Undies Fairy is proof that it is true!
My youngest son, the non-autistic-sports-oriented-boy-brained-wild-man I am raising, stopped wearing underwear shortly after he earned the right to have them. He was out of diapers at three and then by four or five (I am not good with exact days. Unfortunately, my brain is not that good anymore) my boy went on strike. No underwear would grace the inside of his clothing for five more years. At the time, thinking I was the mom and I could win the battle, I even went out and bought all the most sought after character undies. We bought Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, Ben 10, Thomas the Tank Engine, Spider Man, Batman, Star Wars, Iron Man, Transformers, The Hulk…you name, we owned it. But, despite my temptations and mild bribery, he would have nothing to do with the wearing of undergarments.
My boy went commando. I will tell you with complete honesty that a five year old commando is hard to explain to the pediatrician.
In kindergarten, he and I even had an intellectual conversation as to why he did not want to wear them and I asked him to try once more…to which he replied, “Mom, I’ve tried, but they sweat me.” The doctor tried to appeal to his pain aversion by telling him stories of peepers stuck in zippers. My significant other appealed to him from a chaffing point of view. I even appealed to him from a sports point of view. What if another child tackled you a little hard and held on a little too tight? He is a very active and skinny boy and it wouldn’t take much for his pants to slide right down and EXPOSE all his assets! He cut me off at the pass and nonchalantly assured me he’d wear a belt and cinch it up tight. His logic didn’t stop me though and I didn’t give up. Instead, I bought briefs, boxers and even boxer briefs but the boy was staunch in his decision to remain commando. He would have nothing to do with any of the styles I offered. Not even Sponge Bob or Captain America! Commando remained and I finally gave in to his choices last summer when I threw all the still packaged undies into a bag for Goodwill. I was certain some child would appreciate the depth of characters and style options we’d invested in.
And, then it happened. Last week, The Underwear Fairy visited my boy. Thank you, Underwear Fairy! My boy, out of the blue, asked me to buy him some boxers. BOXERS!! Yes, mom did a happy dance quietly inside my own head and, of course, since we had tossed all our old boxers, we went shopping at Target so he could choose some cool NEW ones. His older sister, in an odd turn of events as I stood back watching the scene unfold, even helped him pick out the “cooler” colors.
This morning has been BLISS as I pridefully watched him head off to school in his turquoise and black plaid “cool colored” boxers. No one else may know he is wearing them and no one else may understand what a momentous day this in my life…but I do and I will continue to do my happy dance…out loud now that the kids have gone. I will continue to beam until he walks back in the door after school and I can casually see if he kept them on or if they are missing. Hidden I would guess in the boys bathroom trash can if I had to guess.
The really big lesson learned from The Underwear Fairy is that I realized I could have given up the fight years ago. I wasted a lot of time, energy and grief with my own rule book about what kids are SUPPOSED to do. I never really needed to stock his drawers (totally unintentionally but funny nonetheless) with every character known to children. It wasn’t worth one minute of the struggle I put into it and all the struggle in the world didn’t change it one bit. In his own time he made the choices that were right for him.
The boy will be who he will be and he won’t be like all the other kids and that is okay. When he wants to conform he will and when he doesn’t…well…he won’t and that is just who he is. PERIOD. We are not a family who always follows the rule book so I am not sure why it has taken me so long to figure this one out. Autism has taught us that particular lesson and the whole family benefits from that kind of hard fought autism wisdom. And, yes, Mom is sometimes the last one to get it but, eventually, the brick wall lands hard on my head and it finally sinks in. The parenting journey is just as much about learning to be better parents as it is about teaching kids right and wrong. So please don’t be like me and make The Undies Fairy waste a perfectly good brick wall on your noggin too. Just wait for it and let your child grow and be who they are. It might intersect with who you want them to be and it might not but every child will be the unique individual they were meant to be if we step out of the way and let them be!
Thank you Underwear Fairy :).