Wherein I Decide That It’s Actually Oliver Who Wears the Pants

Sometimes I think I worry too much about Oliver. Or not so much that I worry…but that I just always assume he’s going to be the odd man out. Not without reason of course – my son is one weird little dude. I personally like this about him, but I’m also aware of the fact that “weird” isn’t a sought after quality in elementary school friends.

The fact that he’s in Kindergarten makes everything a little bit easier. He’s given some leeway as being a “little kid” and the other Kindergartners are still kind of goofy in their own ways, regardless of how much more typical they are. So Oliver continues to fly under the radar, doing his own thing his own way, and isn’t largely concerned with how he may be perceived.

That’s another thing I like about Oliver. He’s his own man. So other kids are moving on from their old preschool interests and now run around playing “Star Wars”? Whatevs – he’s still happy with his Thomas Trains. They think trains are for babies? Good – more trains for him. He’s not abandoning his ardent love of those cheeky little engines just because someone else tells him that’s so 2009. He has staying power.

He is also so incredibly comfortable in his own skin. I’ve mentioned before that he’s a very big kid. Five years old and over 60 lbs, he’s as tall as some of the second graders. And he is solid. I was also pretty tall for my age and a fairly sturdy little girl, but this always made me feel awkward. Like I was just a little too much. I felt heavier and weighted down by my size. But Oliver is sure footed and agile. He uses this sense of weightiness as an anchor. He stands firm and holds his ground. A physical quality that matches his personality.

And when I say Oliver is “comfortable in his own skin” I mean that quite literally. He likes to wear as little clothing as possible. Coats are constricting and only to be tolerated in the coldest of temperatures. He has little patience for layers. They are peeled off as quickly as they were applied. And once inside, clothes are hardly necessary. Really – what purpose do they serve when not protecting you from the elements?

Other children run in after school kicking off their shoes and flinging aside coats, seemingly deaf to their parents’ reminders to please put that in the closet. My son does this as well, but he takes it a step further by adding his pants to the trail of outerwear.

Oliver doesn’t wear pants at home. In fact, he doesn’t wear pants in any home where he feels at home. It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a room at a play date and find my pantsless son building lego towers or lounging in front of a TV. Doesn’t matter if all the other kids are fully dressed. To each his own, you know. It’s not that he’s rude – he’s just comfortable. His state of undress is really just a testament to your superb hospitality. Kudos – you hostess with the mostess, you!

I’ve come to accept this little quirk in the same way that I surrender to my daughter’s insistence on wearing nothing but pink. It’s not my preference…but I respect their choices as long as they’re not hurting anyone else (maybe just my eyes).

At the end of the day, I’m just thrilled if Oliver is at least wearing underpants.

Aside from his current trajectory toward being “the naked guy” at college parties, Oliver is quite well behaved. He’s a nice boy and very accepting of others. Feel free to take off your pants at his house too. He doesn’t judge. He likes other kids as a general rule and will only be put off by unpleasant behavior. Even then, he doesn’t take offense – he just moves on. It’s like he has this innate sense of there being plenty of room for everyone. If you give him some space, he’ll give you yours. And in such a “my team/your team” world, I find this both brave and wise. I hope he always has the strength of character and confidence required to maintain that approach to life.

So yes – he’s a special needs kid. He’s different. He’s maybe even a little weird. But he’s fine.

The other day at the YMCA, I glanced down at the kids area to see Oliver standing still while other children raced around him. I kept watching and realized that he wasn’t just standing still, he was frozen on the spot. His arms were stiff at his sides and his knees were locked. He stared straight ahead and looked as if he was trying not to blink. He stayed this way for long enough that even I, the head cheerleader for Team Different thought, “what fuck is that?” Time stood still as Oliver stayed still. Blurred shapes of playing children swirled around him, but I only had eyes for my son the statue. I thought, “what are you doing? Come on – just move already before the others notice. Walk. Play. Be normal. Please.”

Then a small figure disengaged from the only vaguely perceived melee around Oliver and tapped him on the shoulder. Just like that my son came back to life and ran out of view. And I suddenly understood. Oliver wasn’t playing some strange game of his own, oblivious to everyone around him and their potential scorn. He was playing Freeze Tag. They all were. He was part of the game. One of them.

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees… Oliver isn’t always alone. Sometimes he really is part of the group. And sometimes he’s not, but it doesn’t matter because he’s always exactly where he wants to be. There is always a place for him.

I never need to worry about Oliver. He’s not oblivious to the world around him. He just makes his own decisions about when and where he wants to engage with it. He’s come a long way in the past few years, and the truth is, he has a long way to go. But I have more faith in him than I do in almost anyone else in my life. He is my constant and he is true to himself. I have no doubt that he will always find his place in life. One where he is happiest, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. He is now and will hopefully always be his own man. With the support of his family and friends and without any fear of ever truly being alone. With or without pants.

13 thoughts on “Wherein I Decide That It’s Actually Oliver Who Wears the Pants

  1. Your son is so very special and awesome. :) And adorable, might I add. My 5 year old is also over 60 pounds! Closer to 70, actually. He's a big boy! And he also loves taking off his pants as soon as he gets home from school or wherever.

  2. What an incredibly moving post Kate! He's so lucky to have a mom who loves him and understands him so completely. I wish that for ALL children, everywhere. Pants, or no pants! The last time I saw him, I think, was at my baby shower – and he was pantless! He was wearing a swimsuit! :)

  3. "There is always a place for him." Love that and love this post. It's a beautiful tribute to Oliver.

    How hilarious that he likes to be pantsless. We like to change into our comfy pants around here as soon as walk in the door. I totally get the need to be 'without pants'.

  4. Such a beautiful post! Oliver sounds like such an awesome boy. I'm wearing some very uncomfortable work pants right at this moment, and I think I'd like to employ his no-pants game plan!

  5. What a lovely post. I totally think you should print this out and put it in an envelope to give him when he's older. It'll mean a lot for him to read it someday.

  6. This is one of the best pieces I've ever read about parenting. I wish I could always see my daughter with such optimism and clarity. She deserves nothing less. Thank you for the reminder and the inspiration. And what an impressive guy Oliver is.

  7. He sounds like a fantastic kid. It's too bad parents have to worry about kids' differences as they get older, as if growing up isn't hard enough as it is. Good thing he has such a great mom to take care of him along the way.

  8. yep. that was am awesome post. i love when you write about oliver because i can completely envision and understand exactly what you are referring to. i live in a world like that also and that's ok.
    he's so lucky to have you and i love that you allow yourself to express your honest and sincere feelings!
    thanks…
    xo

  9. What a treasure your kids will inherit with all of these beautiful expressive pieces you have written, Kate! Talk about the ultimate "baby book" or family chronicle. You have an amazing gift of eloquent expression, Kate. Loved reading this. xx

  10. Hahaha! I love this. Oliver is so special and I love that you embrace that about him. And you know what? I think Oliver is onto something…imagine if we lived in a world where people just didn't always wear pants. I think it would be a much easier going, happy, less judgemental place. I mean really…McCain ardently defending DADT while pantsless? How could anyone be mad?

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