When you look at the picture, the first thing you notice is the disparity between the two caped crusaders’ getups. Batman is dressed in the finest post-Halloween authentic made-in-China polyester costume, complete with a mask and flowing red bat wings (or whatever those are supposed to be). His poor little brother is dressed in what can only be described as… well… tinfoil chaps.
Not Robin (NR for short) was happy to be wearing his invented disguise, complete with a small stick (for what purpose, I can only imagine). The ragtag, second-string nature of his costume was a perfect foreshadowing of the years to come. He is a boy with a closet bulging with a never-ending assortment of slightly worn tee shirts, pants and pullovers. I take him to buy new things every year… I do! But we both get to the store and shrug, realizing that his brother grew out of the same exact stuff the year before. He doesn’t seem to mind yet. For a ten-year-old boy, a shirt is a shirt is a shirt.
On a deeper level, my second son is living his whole life sporting a not-quite-as-complete little boy costume. He was born missing some parts, a topic that I’m sure will fill other posts as I explore the many ways parenthood has been a surprise. The most obvious difference for my son is his little left hand. He has only three fingers, and they don’t bend the way yours or mine do. He is different, forced by the circumstances of his life to be the one not in the standard costume. But the great thing I’ve learned from my confident Boy Wonder is that it’s really OK.
He loved being different when he defiantly proclaimed that he was Not Robin back at age three. He loves being different now, as he waves his “lucky” hand at his classmates, knowing he will never be the kid they just can’t place in their yearbook.
When he was born, I thought he might be defined by what was missing. I worried that all the other kids had the expected gear and the right appearance to make their way as painlessly as possible in the world, but my son would have to struggle to find his place. I wanted to buy him the whole ensemble, to give him my own if I could. But I couldn’t, and he taught me—and I will share with you more in the future—that it is OK to delight in proudly wearing your own handcrafted tinfoil chaps. Every Halloween, you may see a hundred little Batmans, but I’ll bet there’s only one Not Robin.