I was recently looking at a picture of my now-six-year-old son at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party wearing a Superman cape. He was three at the time. It gave me a great giggle. I love that he wore that out in public as if it was no big deal. And I have year after year of pictures of my daughter wearing formal dresses to bowling alleys and community centres.
When it comes to “proper” attire, we were not picky.
We recently went to a museum, and my son had a blast standing beside statues, mimicking them. It was pretty hilarious. Both kids stood behind a screen where you could just see their shadows and they danced like maniacs. They were having a blast.
We are not the type of parents to say “You are in a museum. No goofing around.” We want our kids to enjoy being goofy and have fun and not take everything so seriously. There’s plenty of time to be serious when you’re adult. We love letting them just be kids.
But there’s a line. There’s a line between, say, wearing PJs in a public to wearing a swimsuit to church. And there is a line between mimicking a statue and playing hide and go seek in a museum. (Yes, my son did that, and got told off by a security guard - rightfully so!)
If I was judging my parenting from the outside (because, let’s be real, I’m sure museum enthusiasts were offended by my son’s statues), I’d say “this is why you need to teach proper public etiquette and enforce it at all times! It’s a slippery slope from statue humour to being hyper brat hiding behind museum patrons and treating the museum like a playground! Bad parent! Bad!” That’s certainly how my husband and I felt in that moment. But kids can’t easily find the line. They learn by crossing it and being told no.
But then, I saw that adorable picture of him in his superhero cape, and it reminded me that it’s okay to let kids be kids, as long as they aren’t destructive, doing something dangerous, or in other people’s faces.
Notice how I didn’t add bothering other people to the list. Because really, if someone was bothered by him quietly pretending to be a statue, I don’t really care.
These little kids - the ones wearing their capes and their PJs and their fancy dresses, walking around in public being CHILDREN, finding joy in their environments, exploring life in ways we adults know we can’t replicate because people would look at us like we’re insane - these kids are living the life. They give no shits. They are who they are, and it makes them feel good and it makes them happy.
Also, it’s darn adorable.
No, I don’t want my children playing hide and go seek in museums. But I do want them to enjoy being a kid and enjoying life in ways adults just won’t. At some point they’ll regard statues with awe and interest (or, let’s be real, boredom). They’ll wear proper attire all the time and never ever even think about playing hide and go seek among moving museum patrons. But for now, I’m willing to do line enforcement if it means my kids get to enjoy one of the best parts of being a kid – being exactly who he is without a care in the world.