When I was a really little girl, my really old lady babysitter Mrs. Dougherty made me a winter hat. It was light pink with long earflaps, a pom-pom on top and darker pink flowers knitted into it. Mrs. D. was an awesome babysitter. She played cool card games with me, she made me the best grilled-cheese sandwiches and clearly she was a pretty crafty knitter. I thought about Mrs. D. a lot when I had little kids of my own and was looking for a babysitter to watch those kids.
I longed to find the modern day Mrs. D. for them and also the modern day knit hat for me. I never found the sitter, and the closest I came to the hat was one kind of like this one that I purchased at Anthropologie a few winters ago. It had the earflaps and the hand-sewn flowers in it, but no pom-pom and it was black with pink and yellow flowers. I wear it a lot. It keeps me warm and I think it looks pretty cute too. My kids don’t think so at all. They are embarrassed by me when I wear it and also at times when I don’t.
I understand. My parents used to embarrass me. Sometimes my dad still does when he wears his winter hats – the very same ones he wore in my childhood. But the thing is that I don’t really care anymore what people think of him. I don’t really care anymore what people think of me. My kids still care, and I get that too.
My love of Mrs. D. as a child didn’t preclude me from stuffing her hat in my backpack before I walked into school every morning. I didn’t want anyone to notice me because of the hat or worse make fun of me for wearing it. I wanted to be like everyone else. It’s funny to think about that now as I kind of pride myself on not looking or dressing like anyone else. That’s in part why I tend to over-accessorize. If I only had that Mrs. D. hat now., I’d wear it all the time. I guess it might look a little funny as the little girl size would surely not fit my giant (it’s as big as most grown men’s heads – seriously) big girl head.
I sometimes see me through my kids’ eyes when I wear the hat or some other out of the box concoction like my oversized knit pins on top of my draping sweater coats. I don’t think they like that I purposefully dress a little differently. They are way too cool to wear a hat like mine or sometimes even a basic winter coat.
They are good kids and they exude more confidence then I did when I was their age, but I know it’s not easy to be a kid – especially these days. I see them struggle to fit in, to do what’s cool and also to do what feels right. I want to help but I know that as a parent right at that moment, I can only do and say so much.
Sometimes I think in wearing my hat or my funky wrap bracelets or my colorful scarves and way too high boots, I’m quietly telling them or maybe showing them to forgot about what anyone else thinks of them. I want them to know that it’s okay not to be like everyone else, to figure out who they really are and own that. I want them to know intuitively that they need to think for themselves and also that they shouldn’t peak in high school because we all know what happens to the kids who peaked in high school.
On a recent family ski trip, I watched as my son stood out in freezing cold temperatures as we waited for a shuttle to take us to dinner. I saw him reach into his jacket pocket and take out his winter hat – the one with his favorite football team name on it and a giant pom-pom on top. He put it on his head, and then I smiled right at him.
“You look good kid” I said to him.
“I know” he said back without missing a beat.
I guess I’ll keep wearing my hat and I hope he will too.