Just when I think I know my son, he likes to throw a curve ball and put me firmly back in my place. He’s grown in so many ways this last year and it’s been such a joy to watch. But my shy, and unsure little boy is still there, underneath the surface and some days the insecurities win through and things don’t quite go to plan. Last Tuesday was a case in point, a reminder that my 7 year old son hasn’t quite cracked the confidence that his friends show. That’s fine, totally fine, and when Dress Up Day goes wrong we just work together to get him through.
Some children thrive on dressing up, be it at home, play groups, parties or school. That’s never been my son. It took quite a few years before he’d even entertain the idea of dressing up at home. But even then, it was something he’d only do at home. He would be the only child at a Superheroes party who didn’t dress up. He, and I, if I’m frank, would dread the letters from school about World Book Day, and Dress Up Day for this, that and the other. Even Halloween is only something Monkey has entertained over the last couple of years. But never, ever with anything on his face! This boy is not for face painting, ever. That’s fine, that’s Monkey.
Everything changed, or so I thought, when Dress Up Day revolved around How to Train Your Dragon. You may recall my rather wonderful Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. A proud Mummy moment and the first time I’ve sent a happy dressed up boy to school.
So when the letter came home that there would be another Dress Up Day, I thought we’d probably be ok. This term the topic is ‘Through the Port Hole’ and the children have been learning all about Grace Darling. So the dressing up theme was to come to school as a Victorian Lighthouse Keeper’s child. Bingo, easy, trousers, top, waistcoat and a cap. Easy, I said, easy, Monkey agreed. We went through his dressing up box, decided on the best cap and we were all set.
It came to the morning of Dress Up Day, and Monkey was happily chatting away about what they might be doing at school, he got dressed in his gear and even posed for a photo or two.
The smile was genuine, all was well with the world. There was even time for a bit of messing around.
Little did I know that trouble was brewing. When Dress Up Day goes wrong and you don’t expect it, it’s a bit of a shock.
We headed off to school and it wasn’t long before the cap was off. It’s fine Monkey, just put it in your book bag if you don’t want to wear it. Maybe you could show it to your teacher later. All was fine on the walk to school.
We entered the school grounds and I could see he was having a little wobble. We walked into the playground with his best friend but I could see he wasn’t happy. Look Monkey, everyone is dressed up, you aren’t alone.
But the wobble got bigger and as his teacher opened the classroom door, the tears started to flow and he clung on to me. Mummy, take me home, I want to go home. Oh Monkey, it’s ok, it’s all ok. But he wasn’t having any of it, and before I knew he he’d bolted and was running towards the playing field. Impressive sprinting, I wonder if he could recreate that for Sports Day, Probably not, as that’s something else he hates.
I caught up with him and tried to calm him down and reassure him that everything was ok. I managed to call over to his teacher for some help and she was there in a flash. She knows Monkey so well, she’d soon scooped him up and walked him into class, talking to him all the way. A look back to me that she’d keep an eye on him and that was it, in he went.
When Dress Up Day goes wrong it just sucks. You want your child to join in and enjoy it, but seeing Monkey so upset, it broke my heart a little bit. He’d come so far earlier in the year with dressing up for school, but it looks like that might have been a one-off. If it is, then that’s fine. If I’d known that he would have reacted like that in the playground I wouldn’t have let him go to school in dressing up clothes in the first place. But at home he was happy, laughing and joking and I thought he was totally ok with it all. I was wrong.
He won’t tell me what went wrong, why and when exactly he started to not want to be dressed up that day. I wish he could explain his feelings, but perhaps he just doesn’t quite understand himself. We both cried that day, I don’t want either of us to feel that sad about dressing up again.
So another letter came home via ParentMail the very next day. Camo Day on Friday 23rd, to celebrate Armed Forces Day which is on Saturday. Dress up in camouflage gear and face paint. I groaned inside, read out the letter to Monkey and told him, darling, it’s totally ok if you don’t want to dress up for Camo Day, or any other day. It’s a great cause but if you want to, just wear your uniform and take in £1 donation anyway. Ok? Ok. For some children dress up day just isn’t fun, and that’s our reality, and that’s ok. When Dress Up Day goes wrong I’m reminded that sometimes my 7 year old is still very young, and that’s ok.