for any long-time readers, you probably remember that ruth doesn’t dress up for halloween, as a rule. she’s one of those kids that possesses the double whammy of not liking attention drawn to her and being really sensitive to oddly textured materials.
this year, however, i was surprised by her when, after i dragged out the giraffe costume for joel out of the basement, ruth announced that she wanted a costume too. after digging through her drawers and pulling half of her wardrobe out onto the floor, it seemed like nothing would do. “do you want to go to the sweet pea boutique after dad gets home from work and see if we can find any costumes left that would fit you?” i asked, with hesitation. i wasn’t sure it was a good idea. i was just trying it out to see how it would feel. she seemed relieved by this. “yes!” she said. and, ready or not, we were committed. though half the time it seems like she doesn’t even hear you (like when i say no movies right now or no candy before noon) the kid has a mind like a steal trap when it comes to promises of things that she can have.
the sweet pea boutique is simply our local second hand baby shop. sure, we have thrift stores and the goodwill but the sweet pea boutique, a little more upscale and expensive,is the only place that i know of that always has a reliable wealth of costumes in the fall (it’s where i got the giraffe costume for ruth when she was joel’s age). as we made our way there, i wondered what i had just signed up for. with ruth, or any four year old, i imagine, you never really know how things like that are going to turn out. will she get too flustered and overwhelmed and just cave into a ball of frustrated tears? will she refuse to try anything on? will she not be able to make a decision? or will it be one of those magic times when everything works out just perfectly?
well, you can probably tell that it was one of those magical times by the fact that i’ve already hinted that this year has been different. as resistant and difficult as ruth can be at times, she seems to be growing into a young child that truly knows her own mind, because she walked right up to the racks of costumes and announced, “i want to try on everything.” so, i obliged by digging out every 4t costume that was a viable option. then, she proceeded to try them all on one by one in the fitting room and stand looking at herself in the mirror each time, smiling broadly, in a very good humor.
checking the time and wanting to speed things up, i kept asking, “ok, which one do you think you want?” but she insisted, “now i have to sit down and think about which one i want.” in my mind, though things had gone well up to this point, there was still all the potential in the world for a giant meltdown and us leaving the store empty-handed. “ok ruth, five more minutes.” she looked me straight in the eye and said, “no, ten.” then she sat down in quiet repose and looked at the costumes hanging on the inside of the fitting room door. i got antsy. i should put an end to this, i thought. i should insist she pick one so we can get out of here. i seriously doubted her ability to make this choice. after all, choosing one means not choosing a whole slew of others, almost unthinkable to the four year old mind. but i kept quiet. let her do it, i thought. leave her be.
i was still entertaining visions of an enormous battle about to begin when she turned to me, and calmly announced, “i want belle!” i could scarcely believe it when she didn’t immediately try to retract her decision, when she insisted on carrying the costume to the front by herself and putting it up on the counter for the man to scan. i kept waiting for her to burst into outraged tears, fling herself on the ground, rip the dress to shreds, something. i paid the man. “have a nice night,” he said. and we walked out the door.
it may not seem like much, but i don’t think i can put into words the kind of pride a person feels when their children start to show the confidence of knowing their own mind, when they are clearly gaining a strong sense of self and when they are assertive and self-assured enough to express their desires and to calmly make decisions.