Lately Zeke has been struggling with being himself. I see him come home and he acts like the other boys in his class. One day he was stuttering because a boy at school stutters a little. One day he was using a phrase that one of the boys in his class uses all the time. It seems like he is constantly coming home with something that is not him! He has a lot of boys in his class and some of them have very strong personalities! Sometimes it is hard to find your place and know that it is okay to just be you. We have had several talks with him, expressing our love for HIM and telling him how much we missed him when he was trying to be some one else. We told him all the things about him that we loved and that we hope he will be able to find himself again.
His word he picked out for this year is truth. We talked about how that word can also me being true to yourself - finding out who you are, being who you want to be and doing what you want to do because it is what YOU like, not some one else. Zeke is a very smart boy and has a very deep understanding of things like this. After our talks he would go back to being Zeke but then after a few days he would find another person to try out for a while.
Now, I know this may not seem like a big deal, after all, kids are always copying each other. but for some reason it bothered me. I wanted him to be comfortable being him. I wanted him to know he was perfect just the way he was. I wanted him to know that he didn't have to become some one else to be accepted. I struggled with how to help him see this.
Then, the other day I was at Hallmark (yes, this will be a Hallmark moment) and I saw this stuffed Zebra. It had a book attached to it called "Just Be You!" Under the title it says, "Your heart beats true when you're busy being you."
Zeke loves zebras and this little book was about him! It tells about a little Zebra who only had black and white stripes. Everyone around him had black and white stripes too but they also had one stripe that was a different color and some were even different patterns like zigzag or swirly instead of just straight. He didn't know why he didn't have one but he knew he really wanted one. He decided that he would start acting like everyone else so he could get a stripe like theirs. He tried being all sorts of people but the stripe never came. His dad noticed something was wrong so Zebra told him that he wanted a stripe just like his. His dad said that he didn't want a stripe like his, he wanted one of his own. One that was magnificent and bright and bold just like Zebra was! His dad told him that the only way he could get one like that was to be himself. Zebra realized that he loved being himself and had a lot more fun when he was himself. In fact he got so busy being him that he forgot about his stripe. Then one day he passed by the mirror and saw that he had a bright red stripe! It was bright and bold and magnificent just like him!
I got the book. Yesterday was a snow day so I sat Zeke down and gave him the zebra while I read him the story. Then we talked about what it meant. I showed him the pictures and asked if Zebra looked happy when he was trying to be everyone else. He didn't. I asked him how he looked when he was being himself. He was happy. He was magnificent. He was bright. He was bold. I told him that he was the Zebra. He was smart and funny and nice and helpful. He was bright, bold and magnificent too. I told him that whenever he thinks he needs to be some one else to remember Zeke the Zebra and be himself!