Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pajama Day and other Fashion Worries

The other day Ethan got into the car after school, acting a little pouty.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"We earned all our Brownie Points, and she let us vote for extra recess or Pajama Day, and Pajama Day won!" Ethan was clearly not pleased.

"Oooohhh," I answered. "So you're going to have a special day when you wear pajamas to school?"

"Yeah." He paused for a moment. "Why do we have to do that? I don't want to wear pajamas to school!"

"Why not?"

"I just don't want to. People don't wear pajamas to school."

I knew where this was going. The vote in Room 20 had just rocked his world. People wear clothes to school, not jammies. What was he going to do about that?

I was never big on the school spirit or "special" days at school. I've always been creative, but with words or my thoughts, not fashion. Mismatched Day, Crazy Hair Day, Backwards Day, you name it, I begrudgingly did it, knowing I'd pick something perfunctory that would show I was participating on the most basic level without drawing too much attention to myself.

When Anna started to have these days at school, I noticed she was the same way. She too lacked the spunk; the nerve; the enthusiasm. Like me, Anna has always found these days stressful. In fact, she finds changing anything about her appearance stressful. On her Pajama Day she fretted over which type of pajamas. I'll never forget wanting to put her hair up in preschool, and hearing her protest: "No! People will make comments!"

Somehow these days end up feeling like dressing business-casual in a corporate environment. You know, when dressing down a little is actually more stressful than coming to work on a regular day, because you don't know what is too dressy or too casual?

Or maybe I've just cared too much what other people think, and have sadly passed a little bit of that down to my children?

I'll never forget my cousin's bridal shower, circa 2000. My mom and I both received invitations. The location? A beach in an upscale town on Boston's North Shore. We wondered: what in the world does one wear to a bridal shower at the beach? Was it literally on the beach? (Turns out, it was, under a small pavilion.) How dressy could you get at the beach? But this was a ritzy town. We couldn't show up looking like bums. We ended up literally driving by veeeery slowly, a number of times, attempting to scout out the area and check out what everyone was wearing first, fully prepared to make outfit changes in the back of the minivan. (For the record, I think we wore casual sundresses, and it worked just fine.)

I think of Ethan the other day, before we left for school, when I asked him if he wanted to wear a jacket. "I don't think so," he said. There was a pause, and then, "But what are the other kids wearing?"

This blew me away. At his social skills group they're working on taking another person's perspective. Yet this kid knows enough to wonder what other people are thinking? I'm not sure if this should amaze or sadden me. How strong is that inherent desire in all of us to fit in?...

...which makes me wonder if the worry about Pajama Day is autism-you're-rocking-my-routine-related or I'm-worried-what-the-other-kids-will-think-related. Only his class is doing Pajama Day -- not the other 400-something kids in the school.

The Pajama Day talk continued in the car yesterday.

"So for Pajama Day, I put on my pajamas when I get dressed?"


"Noooo! I just can't do that," Ethan said. "I'm too scared."

"Why are you scared?"

"Oh, you know why I am scared. I just don't want to do that terrible Pajama Day!"

But I'm actually not sure why he is scared. And I'm not completely sure he is, either. His teacher told me he doesn't have to do it. But I'm all for pushing out of the comfort zone, as long as it's not too painful or stressful.

That's why Anna has gone to school with purple (chalk-colored!) hair for Silly Hair Day. It's why I let my mom dress me as "Space Moose," under duress, for Crazy Hat Day when I was in 4th grade (Don't ask. But I won first place.)

And it's why Ethan and I have worked out a compromise. He's going to put on his Angry Bird pajamas today, and he will have clothes with him if he wants to change.

School starts in t-minus 180 minutes....stay tuned.

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