(photo description: Six year old girl dressed up in a fancy pirate dress and hat. The dress is pink and black and has a skull and crossbow at the waist and another on the hat. She is fingerspelling 'R R'.)
It was costume day at the Royal Ontario Museum's summer camp. Joe and I discovered this, by accident, by reading through the weekly activity sheet that Ruby had been given on the first day. I don't know how we missed it the first time through. But luckily we read this Tuesday afternoon and the costume day was Wednesday. Before picking Ruby up we went in search of costumes. We found a store that had just put them on display for Halloween. Instead of just buying one, we then went and picked Ruby up and headed back to the store. Her costume, her choice. She picked two to try on. First she stepped out of the dressing room as a Vampire ... next she stepped out as the pirate. It was a hard choice for her to make, she chose, finally, the pirate.
The next morning Ruby had her picture taken several times by passersby who loved the costume and asked if they could take a photo for their children or grandchildren. I have to admit, Ruby carried the costume well. She walks with the confidence of a pirate! When we got to the ROM, we sensed a problem, very, very, very, few - in fact, almost none of the other kids wore costumes. The staff were dressed up but the kids were just in their day cloths.
One little girl was really upset. "No one else is wearing a costume!!!" Her mother tried to comfort her, but she was having none of it. "They are going to stare at me all day. They are going to make fun of me." With all the talk about bullying and teasing, you'd think this would be lessened. Hearing her, I wondered how Ruby felt. We'd put a change of clothing into her bag just in case this happened. She could easily step into a bathroom and come out dressed like it was any other day.
We asked her what she wanted to do. She listened to the other girl, all upset about being in a costume, and then said, "I like my costume, I'm going to wear it. I don't care if other kids aren't wearing one. It's OK to look different." And off she strode, in pirate mode, the heels of her cowgirl boots striking the ground with purpose. When the other little girl, who had not noticed Ruby in her costume saw her, saw her confidence, she quieted and then gave her mom a hug and headed off to her class.
When we picked Ruby up after camp we asked her if she wanted to change out of her costume because we were going to get her nails done. She only thought for a second, "No, I like my costume. I don't mind if people look at it." And they did.
Ruby is comfortable with others being different, now she's becoming comfortable with sometimes being the odd person out, comfortable with choosing difference over sameness ... it was clear that she is headed towards a kind of independence that really matters - not being ruled by the opinion or codes of others. So what if she was one of only two kids in her class with a costume? So what? She told us that some other kids had brought costumes to wear but when they got there and saw few others in costumes, decided not to put them on.
"That's just silly," she said, and shook her head.