I sat next to my husband slumped down in my seat, bracing myself for the fallout. In fact, if there were seat belts on the theater chairs, mine would have been fastened and if the lights had not already been dim, I would have donned dark glasses to hide the tears I was sure were about to come. We were attending the 8th grade band concert and it was the first time Sam had decided to wear the boy’s performance attire, that being black pants, white button-down shirt, a tie and men’s dress shoes. Fearing the backlash I begged him not to, but the thought of wearing the designated girl’s outfit turned his stomach more than any ridicule he may receive from his classmates for being true to himself.
The curtain opened and the band filed in as I slid further down in my seat. Amidst the crowd of self conscious middle-schoolers was Sam, head held high, actually proud of how he was dressed for the first time in his life, he would later tell me. I quickly scanned the audience to observe any obvious, outward reactions, my radar on high alert, my nails dug into the armrest, but nevertheless at the ready. There were a few people whose body language implied surprise, and some whispers here and there, but in reality they could have been talking about anything, and most likely it wasn’t about Sam. The thing is, when you are in a situation like this, with a child that is not like the rest, you can’t help but assume everyone’s attention is focused on your kid. You imagine a huge, cartoon-like magnifying glass hanging over your child, accentuating their every move, exposing all their differences, and broadcasting their thoughts in bubbles above their heads for all to see. Complete nonsense? Yes, I know, but that imaginary magnifying glass is something I have yet to shatter no matter how hard I try.
When I finally came to my senses, realizing that we had once again evaded the worst-case scenario that I had already re-played one hundred times in my head, I sat up straight, ashamed for doubting my child. I clapped the loudest of any parent in that theater and even yelled the dreaded “WOO HOO!” a shout-out made famous by proud moms all over the world, when he stood to perform a saxophone solo. He knew what he had to do for himself, to feel good about himself, and I should not have been reluctant to follow his lead.
Lesson #522 learned.