receives some parenting advice from his six-year-old.
“Every other kid is going to be in a Swans kit and my son is The Last Emperor”
School has changed. Long gone are the days when the swimming carnival and sports day were the highlights of the year. Today, those remain, but added to the busy calendar are Jump Rope for Heart Day, Book Week and many themed dress-up days. Including the one that shook my world a few weeks back: Red Day.
It sounds ominous. Red Day. Red Day at Leo’s school was a chance for kids to come in their civvies, wear a touch of red and make a gold-coin donation for a chosen charity. Which sounded harmless enough.
But then the day arrived. We were rushing around for school/work as usual and my wife informed me as to what Leo was going to wear to school on Red Day.
On a recent trip to Malaysia, Leo was given a traditional Chinese suit. This is what he had chosen to wear. Head-to-toe satin. Every other kid will be in a Swans kit and my son is The Last Emperor.
Now, I am no stranger to anxiety. For some who have lived or are living with it, it creeps up and surprises you. For others, it may be bubbling away in the background, only to leap out from a shadow when you let your guard down. Mine has been w with me so long, even my anxiety is weathered.wea He has been by my side for decades.de He knows me, knows what pushes my buttons and sometime sometimes in my life he has, I’ll be honest withw you, been in charge. If I picturep him, he is pasty, su surly looking, wearing black j jeans, a leather jacket and is smoking. Actua Actually, I think I just descr described Charlie Sheen in Fe Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. So in the morning, when Leo walked out lookin looking like Bruce Lee’s bigges biggest fan, I started to sweat slightly and asked my wife,w “What about his red StarS Wars T-shirt? Or somes red socks? It is only a hint of red, right, not a whole outfit?” By this time I start to spiral and catastrophise my beautifulbe son’s day. He will b be mocked. He will be bu bullied. He will be a lau laughing stock and the mem memory of this day will burn. It will burn the back of his eyeseye 35 years later, like that time I dressed up as Groucho Marx in ’84 and no one thought it was cool.
One could say I was beginning to, literally, see red. But it was too late. We had to leave or be late for school and, to be fair to Leo, he stood his ground.
So we headed for the car. This is when my son had a heart-to-heart with me. Man to… well… boy. He turned to me and said, “Dad, I know you’re anxious about this, but it is what I want to wear.”
OK. Now the six-year-old is my therapist. He was telling me, in essence, how to parent him, and I was amazed. All my fears dropped away and I realised I trusted his judgement. I was projecting all my issues onto him and he rejected them. He wasn’t me. He is the new generation and I needed to let him go and be who he wanted to be.
Turned out he was right. No one else dressed up to the extent that my son did, but no one flinched. He owned it. He loved it and had a great day. He is going to be fine. I still need some work.