My first grader had his big program at school this week. We’d been hearing all sorts of songs for weeks, songs about  amigos, ribbity frogs, thanks-for-coming songs, a lovely assortment of first grade wonders.

This is only half of the entire first grade class

This is only half of the entire first grade class

When you get more than 80 first graders up on stage, there are bound to be some shenanigans. They are up there a long time, with no teachers close enough to control them.

Creative freedom.

And an audience.

As you can imagine, there were some wild dance moves on display, some exaggerated waving episodes, and one time when a student sat down on the risers for a nice long break.

But nothing could prepare me for my son’s actions.

Let me prepare you by telling you that this son is a bit of a live wire. He’s all in. Everything he feels, he feels BIG, whether it is grief or elation. And he likes to be funny.

He might get this from his mother.

That being said, I didn’t realize I should have sent a package of tissues in his pocket because he clearly had a nose issue going on while he was onstage.

He picked his nose almost the entire length of one song. I don’t know if he ever was able to remove the offending item from his nostril.

I should have told him where we planned to sit so he could locate us. The poor child had to make goggles with his hands to aid in finding his family in the large crowd.

And apparently he needed a bath more recently because, while his class was on center stage, he was so concerned with his hygiene that he had to smell his own armpit. Then he had to ask his neighbor to smell it. Then, in order to have a baseline for comparison, his neighbor had to smell HIS armpit. Then they had to smell one another’s armpits.

Look at that stylized body hair!

Look at that stylized body hair! (Photo credit: Michael Tinkler)

After the program, as I was going to pick up my son, I ran into an old friend I’m getting re-acquainted with. I asked how his daughter did. He seemed surprised by the question, said she did fine and then commented,

“Did you see those two boys smelling their armpits?”

I answered, “One of them was my son.”

He grinned and exclaimed, “That’s awesome!”

And if I stop to look at it from an outside perspective, it was pretty hilarious. You’d expect nothing less from a first grader. It is the classic, stereotypical behavior that happens at a first grade program.

The thing that made me slightly pleased with myself was that I didn’t hesitate to claim my son as my own. I didn’t smile and nod when my friend pointed to the armpit smelling, acting like I was an innocent observer (“Yeah, can you believe that boy?”). That kid is mine and even when he’s oblivious of the audience (or more aware of them, I’m not sure which) and volatile and intense, I claim him as mine.

Maybe it is because of my own inner goofball. I don’t have as many outlets for it these days, but in the past, I’d be the one who’d volunteer to dress up as a cat for some school assignment, or be the one to get a pie in the face for a fundraising event. I don’t mind being up front and I have no compunction about being made to look a fool, as long as I’m in on the joke.

There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do. -Amy Poehler

Being released from conventional definitions of what’s acceptable or proper is freeing. There’s something about embracing your inner goofball that makes you feel more alive.

That might be asking a lot for some of you more mature types. A first step can be to acknowledge that you even have an inner dork. Then try to remove a few ladle-fulls of the massive moat of doubt and analysis that keeps you from saying something you really think. Honesty is refreshing, for speaker and the receiver.

I think that’s the fun of writing. You can make anything happen to any character and as long as it rings true, it will hold up. So maybe the act of writing is a way of embracing one’s inner goofball. And, to steal the words of my friend, “That’s awesome.”

What ways do you “wave your freak flag” or release your inner goofball? How do you support your children’s expression of their personalities? What do you think about allowing yourself to speak your mind rather than censoring or modifying your expressed opinions? I’d love to hear your thoughts!  

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