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My palms are sweaty as I type this. Today was picture day at my son’s school. It has been fast approaching, and I had all kinds of ideas about what he would wear. How would his long hair hang this day? Would he smile the fake, scared looking smile? Or the real smile I see that is full of joy when he is playing with his sister?

I thought about it two weeks ago when he first brought home the order form. Then I put it out of my mind.

I thought about it again a week ago when I was trying to put order to the massive amounts of papers that come home from school on a daily basis. Then I put it out of my mind again.

I thought about it this weekend when we were looking at what was coming up this week and what I needed to have ready. Again, I put it out of my mind.

And then all of a sudden it was TODAY. Picture day and I had not planned the perfect outfit.

I got him in the shower and hustled to his bedroom, looking through his drawers to see what could pass for “picture day attire.” There was nothing. I looked in his closet, searching through a bin of other clothes I had set aside for him, and there was one collared shirt that could work. I grabbed it and as my son stepped out of his towel I quickly slid it over his head. He put on shorts and started to brush his mane. I grabbed the blow dryer since we were running late and dried his hair a bit. As he was walking away, he turned around and, as if just realizing he had a shirt on, looked at me and said “what is this?” I am laughing now as I type this, because it was so matter of fact. He knew the shirt was not “him.” It was not something he’d normally wear and he recognized it.

Thankfully, I, too, knew it wasn’t “him”. I looked at him and said “I have another idea.” I ran and got one of my favorite shirts of his; it’s a simple, hunter green, vintage Gap t-shirt and it makes his eyes sparkle.

I pulled it on over his head and said “There you are, is that better?” He looked at me and smiled and said “Much better, thank you.”

Thinking about this now, later in the day, I am blown away by the message as I look more deeply at this story. I was about to present my kid different than who he truly is – for a silly picture! I was hemming and hawing on and off about what he would wear, but instinctively knew all along that I would send him in a t-shirt and be okay with it!

What better way to have my son start thinking he isn’t good enough than to make him dress in a way that isn’t “him”? 

Now, I know there will be moms that go all out and have matching outfits for their kiddos and what-not on picture day and that is fine…for them. That is not us. Neither is right or wrong, or better or worse.

I want my son to know that the goal is to “be you” and let others “be them.”

Then, no matter what he shows up in today or any other day, as long as he’s comfortable, he’ll be okay. He will be him. And for me that is so very important because for a long time I was not open to him being him and I didn’t even know it. I know it now.

So even though I still have the fleeting thoughts of, “what is the teacher going to think? Or the other moms, what will they say?”, I also feel grateful that my son recognizes what “fits” for him and what doesn’t. He is starting to know himself and that goes beyond picture day. Knowing yourself takes courage and he shows me anew kind of courage that I can embrace.

As for me, I am learning again that there are times I still let the thoughts of others drive my behavior. I am letting that go, and in honor of that, am wearing a t-shirt today, too!