Max took his "Fireman Max" hat to camp. "Max, do you really want to wear that?" Dave asked. It was a rhetoric question, because Dave and I both knew what Max's response would be: "Yes!" Max is wearing it in practically every photo I've seen of him at camp.
For several years, Max wore his trusty firefighter hat—a durable plastic number purchased from Amazon—nonstop except to school, in the shower and to sleep. At first, I thought it looked so cute on him. (OK, I still do.)
And then, it was just part of him. I never gave it a second thought, except if we were out and I noticed kids staring and adults smiling. It's been an incredible conversation piece, because we've regularly met people with relatives who are firefighters and who like to discuss them and Max's firefighter aspirations.
Max is now 14. And Dave's had concerns about the firefighter hat making him look immature. I get where he's coming from: We'd both like Max to connect with peers of all kinds, including ones without disabilities. When Max was 8 and deep in the throes of his purple phase, I wrote about not buying him a pair of purple sandals at Target because I wanted him to better fit in.
And now, the firefighter hat. He's mostly stopped wearing it (sometimes, he likes to wear a cap our local fire department gave to him), but he wanted to take it to camp. It's how he IDs. He is Fireman Max, and he wanted to make sure his fellow campers knew. I was cool with that. Dave had mixed feelings.
The other day, a friend posted a pic on Facebook of a tee in Target's men department that she wanted to get her teen son, who has Down syndrome and autism. The shirt had a picture of Belle holding a book with the caption, "My weekend is all booked." This has particular relevance to her son, because Peg excels at making fun plans for him, and he loves all things Disney. For a split sec, she wondered if a boy should wear Belle.
It was her oldest daughter who nailed it, noting that her brother wasn't raised with any notions of what's "male" and what's "female." As she noted, "He does what he likes without any bias. It's the way we all should be." Another mom piped up, "If something makes you happy, screw whatever preconceived notions are out there!"
As I read the comments, it occurred to me that if Sabrina wanted to wear some out-of-the-box accessory, we'd let her. Max deserves the same. He doesn't care what other people think; why should we? He will relate to his peers in whatever way he chooses to.
I talked about it with Dave over dinner last night. He knew, of course, that the hat makes Max happy. He grudgingly agreed we couldn't control it.
Firefighter hat for the win.