A Lesson at the Park: Empowering Our Children With Choices


toddler choicesRecently, my toddler has taken to exerting his blossoming independence by making strange clothing requests. For a week after “crazy sock day” at preschool he insisted on wearing as many socks as possible, once wearing three on each foot. He’ll often request to continue to wear his daytime shirt *under* his pajamas, the next night on top, the next night no shirt at all. This morning he wanted two pairs of pants. When I told him I was pretty sure they wouldn’t both fit on his legs at the same time, he followed that up with his best request yet, “Then I want them on my head”.

I promised myself long ago that as long as it was seasonably appropriate I would let my kids choose their attire, so we put his pants on his head and he joyously pranced off to the van. It really is beautiful when their day can be made so easily. After we dropped his big sister off at school, we headed to the park to meet a friend and he was so pumped to show everyone his outfit. We arrived at the park, pants still on head, and he ran off to do his thing. I noticed a few moms give a friendly smirk when they saw my son, only made better by his subsequent exclamations of “Look! I’ve got my pants on my head!” whenever he would notice someone watching him. Then he would erupt with laughter. He knew it was silly and he loved it.  

Since the feedback had been all positive and I’m truthfully pretty uptight normally, I admit I was secretly patting myself on the back for encouraging his choices. What a cool mom I am! I let my kid choose his outfit, even when it was kind of embarrassing, and he is so confident! I didn’t pick a battle over something silly and it worked out. He’s such a free spirit! He’s going places! He’s a leader! He’s so unique!

Hold the phone.

I had just noticed a boy at the top of the slide. He appeared equally pleased with himself and confident in his choices. He had the swagger of a dude who knew what he was about, and he was holding…a potato.

Yup. A potato. A spud. A tuberous vegetable.

He was just carrying it around the playground while he played and showing it off proudly to anyone who wandered by like it was a puppy or a prized Elmo or Chase toy. Even my son stopped to admire his tater. A potato! It was so random I loved it even though the more I watched the less I could believe what I was looking at. “What are the odds” I joked with my friend, “that the day I let my son come to the park with his pants on his head, he’d get upstaged by a kid playing with a potato?? We were supposed to be the oddball today!” The extra cool thing was, that none of the other kids cared AT ALL about either boy’s choices of attire or friend. They just accepted it and carried on since it wasn’t hurting anyone. Imagine if we adults could do the same? I know I would worry less about my free spirit having his confidence shattered by the cruel adult world that will want him to fit into a neater space, to be who they expect him to be. For today, I’ll just empower him to make as many choices as possible and figure out who he is while I still can. At this age, the world is still a safe place for headpants and potatoes.

And to the mom of the boy with the potato; if you’re reading this, please contact me. I want to be friends.