John Michael once wore the worn-out edge of his favorite blanket tied around his head like a sweat band with a tail. And I let him. We went to someone’s house for something – just an errand of some sort, and an older boy asked him why he was wearing that. John Michael couldn’t really answer. But as we drove away from that house, I saw in the rear-view mirror as he slowly reached up and slipped the homemade band from his head. And my heart broke. He was was so young to feel he had made a mistake with his style simply because someone else didn’t get it. I felt like I was watching his childhood die. From now on it would be all peer pressure and people-pleasing and conformity. I wanted so badly to figure out how to convince him to put that thing back on, and I knew so completely that I never ever could.
Last Friday, our school had its homecoming parade. And I entered a whole new era as the little boys who used to stand with me on the sidewalk were now all three on floats in the parade. I’ve called these the Yearbook Years and now I realize it’s The Yearbook Years…in which we’re on the floats. When I took Jake to the big, long trailer that would haul one-half of the Youth Football league, he reached into my bag for the sign he had handmade at school. His good friend Grant hadn’t brought his sign, and when I looked around I noticed not a single other boy had brought a sign either. I literally held my breath, wondering how Jake would respond.
I admire a hundred different things about my children. But as a nonconformist myself – or at least a person who always wished she could be one – I feel a special parental relief when they’re not afraid to be a little uncool for something that actually is. Go Tigers.