The following is an excerpt from ‘The Sh!t No One Tells You About Baby #2’ for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
Daniel’s early toddler years were marked by a lot of screaming, crying, falling, and throwing of food. It was almost as if his brain was alerted at 12 months and one day that it was officially time to kick things up a notch. No more peaceful adorableness would be tolerated; it was time to start making a mark on the world. And on his forehead. And my kitchen floor.
It’s not as if this behavior was unexpected; he is far from the first child to embrace the Wrath of the Toddler. But there was one thing he added to his repertoire that I wasn’t quite expecting: accessories. And, my good lord, does this child know how to put an outfit together.
Like many other kids, he started off simply enough, by putting anything on his head that would fit. Boxes, Tupperware, underwear, bras—anything within reach would promptly be tried on as headwear. That was adorable, of course, but it was just a taste of what was in store.
As he got bigger Daniel moved on to other accessories: shoes, ties, necklaces, shoes, costumes, jackets, and also some shoes. He really enjoyed shoes. It got to the point at which the question “Where is Daniel?” could always be answered by “In the shoe closet.” And there you would find him, sitting on a pile of shoes, debating which ones to put on (rarely did he go with a matching pair).
I love that he is still at the age where the only thing guiding his decisions is what makes him feel good.
More often than not he would pick his sister’s shoes, mostly because they were big enough for him to get on without having to ask for help. And then around the corner my boy would come stomping, wearing a backpack, sunglasses, hard hat, and his sister’s pink snow boots. In the middle of summer. When he first started accessorizing, I thought it was hilarious. Seeing him load various items onto his body was endlessly entertaining. And more than that, it seemed to entertain him. Any activity that kept him happy and tantrum-free for a few minutes was always a welcome addition to the day.
Then he started wanting to go out of the house dressed in whatever mismatched outfit he had assembled. And I hesitated. I’m not sure why, exactly. Well, that’s not true; I am sure why. I was embarrassed. But why was I embarrassed? He was 2 years old, and clearly happy as a clam to be wearing his socks on his hands and his sister’s huge pink necklace around his neck. I’m a relatively quiet person, and I really don’t enjoy standing out in the crowd. I was the kid who always sat in the back of the class and prayed, prayed, prayed that I wouldn’t be called upon. Taking a kid out and about who looked noticeably different than a “normal” kid made me feel uncomfortable. Because we certainly weren’t going to be blending in.
But out we went. Because it made the boy happy, and I’m not in the habit of picking unnecessary fights with Tyrant Toddlers. No, we didn’t blend in, but Daniel didn’t seem to care much. There stomped my boy, wearing his sister’s pink boots, or his Spider-Man mask, or his shirt on backward and inside out because he insisted on dressing himself. He didn’t really understand why people would look at him and say, “Hey, there, little man!” or why other kids would be drawn to the various parts of his ensemble. In his mind there was nothing weird about what he was wearing because they were all just things he was drawn to on that particular day. Judging by people’s reactions to Daniel’s appearance, I think we are all a little nostalgic for that brief time in our lives when we honestly don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks.
I often wonder if this aspect of his personality will stick with him through the years. Will I be seeing pictures of my 21-year-old son at a party dressed in whatever ridiculous costume college kids find amusing (I’m assuming the underwear being worn inappropriately will make a comeback around that age)? God, I hope so.
I think we are all a little nostalgic for that brief time in our lives when we honestly don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks.
Over time I’ve stopped being embarrassed about Daniel’s outfits and started to embrace them for what they are: a delightful manifestation of a little kid’s imagination. I love that he is still at the age where the only thing guiding his decisions is what makes him feel good. And I’m hoping that by embracing his “weird” fashion sense we are, in some small way, teaching him that he’s not weird at all.
Someday the world may tell him something different, and when that happens I hope he still puts on those zebra sunglasses, pulls down his Ninja Turtle helmet, adjusts his pretty necklace, and lets the world know that they are missing out on a ton of fun. Walk tall, my little man in pink boots. Walk tall.
Excerpted from ‘The Sh!t No One Tells You About Baby #2: A Guide To Surviving Your Growing Family‘ by Dawn Dais. Copyright © 2016. Available from Seal Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.