Tuesday, June 14, 2011

a happy ending...

Principles. Those ideas we hold sacred. As important as they are to us, what happens when they butt heads with protecting those we love?

Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Ballet is for girls, football is for boys. Romance novels are for girls, sci-fi novels are for boys. <----AAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGH. This is a thought system we fight very hard in this house. And despite our vocal vigilance against these sort of ideas, they still creep in--through school, through TV, etc., etc., etc. But we talk about them and do our best to make our kiddos see the foolishness of such distinctions.

Then came the pants. A pair of black leggings from the thrift store. That Gray fell in love with. Not with how they look, but with how they feel. He has Sensory Processing Disorder (Sensory Integration Disorder). While people with SPD all have sensory issues, there are many different manifestations. Different senses are affected differently in different people. For Gray, tactile sensations and proprioception are the areas that are most strongly affected. (Proprioception, put simply, is sensing where one's body parts are in relationship to one another. This is why Gray falls out of chairs on a regular basis. It is also why he continues to use a fist grip to hold a pencil.) But it's the whole tactile sensation thing that comes into play here. Physical sensations are multiplied exponentially for him. Things I can hardly feel even with conscious effort drive him absolutely crazy! (Thus the reason why the seasonal switching from long sleeves to short sleeves and vice versa that I've mentioned before is always so difficult around here.) And these pants--well, they're just the most comfortable things he's ever owned!

Do we care that he's wearing pants typically marketed for girls? Of course not. We wouldn't care no matter what the reason he chose to wear them. But here's the thing. This sweet child also has major anxiety issues. Not as in, "he's just on the shy side" or "he doesn't like to get up in front of an audience" or "he's a little worrywart" type of thing. No, he's been handed a slew of diagnoses. (Diagnoses that I'm happy to say his psychologist uses *not* as labels, but as tools to help decide what strategies may best help him be comfortable in his own skin.) Anyway, all this said to explain that he is every bit as sensitive emotionally as he is physically.

So...do we set this child up for more bullying and ridicule by allowing him to wear this pair of pants he loves so much, this pair of pants that take away a point of regular discomfort for him? Or do we invalidate everything we've continuously tried to teach them about the idiocy of gender stereotyping by telling him that his pants are "girl pants" and he shouldn't wear them to school?

Well, he wore those pants to school. And the first day, no one said a word. I breathed an inner sigh of relief. And washed the pants--because every other day is about as long as he can stand to be without them. Second day at school in them, a different story. Kids started teasing him about wearing tights. :( But in a feat of bravery, he just said he didn't care. And he's continued wearing his tights, as he now calls them, every other day to school.

I don't pretend to think that standing up for one's principles will always pay off so well. Life is rarely that simple. But this is a happy ending I'm going to cherish. I tell you, that kiddo just makes my heart burst with love and admiration...

8 comments:

Care said...

What a sweetie. And strong, too. Gentle hugs for all of you.

Carl V. said...

Good for him! I don't know if there is anything like this for kids or not, but I went a few years ago to a more upper end store (can't remember which, but it might have been one of those places that specifically sells suits) and I bought a suit and some pants and I swear to you that wearing those pants feels like wearing pajamas. They are so soft and so light and so comfortable. I say this not as an alternative to the ones he is wearing but just throwing out an idea that may help him find multiple pairs of comfy pants. They extra cost might be worth it. It has been for me, plus they seem to be better made and have lasted longer.

Heather said...

Oh I just want to give hin a big ole, huge, virtual hug! What a brave little msn you have there Debra Anne (you're going to regret letting me find THAT out *wink*), and you are the most bravest mama around. I'm so proud of both of you. ((((hugs))))

Heather said...

Man, Debra Anne, MAN. NOT MSN. *sigh* ;)

Farmer*swife a/k/a Glass_Half_Full said...

Oh, my. This would be such a struggle for me. Trying on one hand to support my child's comfort/needs while at the same time wanting to safe guard him/her from the cruelty of the world.

But, it seems that he has decided his physical comfort is more important that emotional ridicule... Wow. That is really great.

I hope things continue to stay positive with this issue.

;-)

DesLily said...

when i was a kid and my mother was raising two of us alone...i wore mostly thrift store clothes..back then it was NOT a cool thing to do..for this I had few friends and was labled "wrong side of the tracks"..it's not easy getting thru those years and I applaud anyone who puts their kids feelings first!

Carl V. said...

I've been thinking since I read this yesterday about just how much an advantage he will have the rest of his life if he continues the course of weighing his options when it comes to decisions and decides to do what he believes is right and best vs. worrying about what those around him are going to think. I wish I had been that brave and wise when I was that age.

Melissa said...

I don't know if you'll recall me blogging quite a few years back about how Jake went through the "Pink Hello Kitty Boots" phase. Wherever we went, those were the shoes he chose to wear. Of course, he was at that glorious age of being oblivious to what everyone else thought. He just knew he liked the way the boots looked!

Now that he's nine, he's had to put up with a fair amount of sniggering from classmates regarding some of his therapy devices (ear phones, chew items). The teasing got so bad that the social worker started coming in once a week to talk to the kids about how people have different needs, and that those differences are not wrong or bad. Also, the teacher and Jake together talked about Asperger's and what it means to have it.

I applaud Gray for being able to turn the other cheek. That's something with which I continually struggle, even as a big person.