What if I told you there was a day you could be whoever or whatever you want?
That there was a time when people of all ages left their old lives behind so that they could live out their dreams the way they’d always imagined?
And no matter how strange, absurd, or… slutty, everyone accepted you as that new, reborn individual.
Would you believe that world existed? Would you step into that realm?
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call #ParanoidParenthood.
Costume Shop, 7pm on a Chilly Saturday
“What about this one?” Pamela held up a Minion costume.
“Maybe,” I said, half paying attention.
It’d been a long while since I last stepped foot in a costume shop. Pamela and I first met because we worked in one together. If you can ignore the goblins and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music, there should be something romantic about that, right?
All I can see is how artificial the store is. I never mistook Halloween for real, but once you’re involved in building the experience from behind the scenes, all you can see is the exact floor plan, merchandising schemes, and how well the employees are maintaining a store that can easily devolve into chaos.
“What about this one?” Pamela said, holding up another.
“Thomas!” my son shouted. He pulled the package close and examined the picture of a toddler sporting the slip-over.
“I think he wants this one,” I said, smiling. “Hey, buddy, let Auntie Kate help you try it on.”
He ran the costume across the store floor to the dressing room.
“We should get a job here,” I said. I moved a costume on the wrong hook back to the correct one then repeated when I’d found another misplaced SKU.
“Yeah, right,” Pamela said, catching the joke. “And what would we do with Levi?”
“He can get a job here too,” I said, standing back to examine my work. “He’s behind on his rent anyway.”
A pattern of little feet grew louder as they approached. Levi broke in between us, wearing the Thomas costume. “Look, Dad!”
“Yeah! I like it!” I said. I turned to Pamela. “So, are we going with this?”
“Look!” Levi said. He had already scampered off to find another costume.
“He may have already changed his mind,” Pamela said.
Pamela and I circled the aisle to find Levi eyeing a pretty, pink, princess dress. “Try on, Dad!”
“Oh…” I said, suddenly aware of a family of four near me. They paused, as if curious to watch and see how I handled this. “I don’t know, buddy.”
And now they think I’m a bigot, I thought.
“Try on!” Levi insisted.
“You’re not going to wear a dress,” Kate said, following up the rear.
The dad in the family of four laughed. Kate laughed. Pamela laughed. Levi, oblivious, laughed. I laughed with nervous reluctance. An iconic “Ow!” from Michael Jackson joined in.
Great. We’re all equally uncomfortable. I shifted and tried to make my laughter more realistic. Two bigot families sharing a moment of bigoted bliss. Everything’s okay. This is okay. I should NOT be uncomfortable. This is what anyone would do. Right?
I’m sure this happens to parents all the time. Their son sees a dress. The child is curious and requests to try it on. The parents refuse. Life goes on.
But what if I’ve planted a seed of “it’s not okay to be different” in my son’s psyche?
What if my son grows up repressed. He’s unsure why, but he just knows that the deep, dark secret about himself can never be told to his parents because they “just won’t understand.” They hate different. They laugh at different and the rest of the world does too.
But I’m fully expecting this when he’s fifteen: “Leave me alone, Dad! You just don’t get me!”
And when I hear that line, I’ll remember the moment when I had a chance to connect with my son’s inner being. I’ll remember I shot it down then joined the world (and Michael Jackson) and laughed.
What About You?
Am I alone in my paranoia?
What’s your paranoia in parenthood?
Let me know in the comments below!