As one who tends to preach owning your individuality, I find myself feeling more than a hair hypocritical that I struggle with the concept of conformity when it applies to my children. On the one hand I genuinely want them to stay away from running with the herd and just focus on being themselves whatever that may mean. However the other parenting part of me – the part that (likely incorrectly) assumes that their childhood challenges will be the same as those I faced – worries that their exclusion from that group will lead them to being trampled by it.
In my mind, the word “conformity” has always taken on a shadowy pejorative connotation, but LA at wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ at wrote a post that got me thinking (her posts have a fantastic way of doing just that). Is conformity really as bad as I have made it out to be?
Are there times when we should encourage some level of conformity for the sake of finding a moderate level of acceptance and comfort within one’s peer group? Could this be particularly true in the case of my comical kid (photos above) as she heads to middle school? If I said nothing, she would probably head of to school in full 80’s gym / wolf cub chic style. ***Please refer to this ridiculous yet true post on my primary blog for wolf cub reference clarification —> so-i-just-waxed-my-daughters-leg.
The honest truth is that I believe that my daughter would be more than okay with either photo opp kind of look because she would never be a conformist no matter what she might be wearing. The perception of others has never defined my kids, and ultimately, the issue is not theirs. It’s mine.
Quite ironically, I really do recognize the error in my thought process. I just can’t seem to get that mama bear protection instinct to go gentle into that good night. I look for in style clothes that they like but that they also find as cool as the mismatched hole-riddled outfits that they already had in their drawers. I try to get them to fix their hair in moderately non-dorky ways and bug them about taking care of their teeth so they won’t reek of monkey butt breath. The non-monkey butt breath mandate is one subject that leaves me with zero mom guilt because seriously – nobody wants in on your stank breath action. No. Body.
Breath funk aside, I do want my kids to feel free to be themselves fully. I just fear the pain that comes with their not being accepted and the hurt that is inevitable when you are ridiculed or excluded. Many of us still wrestle with these same social challenges as adults, but we also have greater control over whom we will allow into our world. We get to decide who we want to spend the bulk of our days with and release those who are hopelessly toxic (or let go of the icky as Mer the rockstar extraordinaire might say – merbearsworld.wordpress.com/).
But you don’t get to pick the kids who surround your children in middle school, and more often that not, a handful of big-mouthed self-designated mob bosses run that show like lord of the frickin’ flies. I am saddened by my own memories of that time period in my life, and I want desperately to keep my children from carrying those painful experiences throughout their own lives long after their school years have passed.
So I push more than I should. I nag about their needing to change their look instead of smiling and snapping another pic for the embarrassing wedding video down the road. I search for ways to help them blend in or try to direct them toward focusing on their unique characteristics that would be appealing en masse. My intentions are good, but I don’t know about the actual execution.
Parenting is an endless learning process, and you never really know if you get it right until you are past the moment when you get to pick your move. No matter what you read or whom you try to emulate, there is no conformity when it comes to being a mom or dad to your kids. We all do the best we can in our own funky individual ways just like our parents did with us. We found our way and our kids will, too.
As far as I’m concerned, the herd can stick it. My sweet-breathed kids are incredible individuals who are meant to shine in their own ways. No matter how much I worry, my well-meaning but off-kilter advice will never be able to hide their light. With that said, I still believe that the proper use of a hairbrush does go a long way. I’m just sayin’.