Daring to Be Different

Have you ever experienced the pain of trying to fit in? No matter how old we get, this can be a problem.

Here are a couple of pictures of my son from his school awards ceremony:

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He’s the one with the hat…the only one out of approximately 200 kids with a hat.

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The previous evening he took about 15 minutes trying to pick out what he would wear. This was serious business to him. He decided on the hat, but I expressed my concern that the day of the awards wasn’t “hat day,” normally reserved for Fridays at his school. He assured me he was pretty sure his teacher would let him wear it for the ceremony.

As his mama, I was worried he would stand out a little too much. I worried some of the kids might tease him for his choice, but I stuffed my concerns and let him take the hat in case his teacher didn’t see a problem with it.

During the awards, as I watched him stand alongside his peers, I felt a great deal of pleasure not having anything to do with any of the awards he won. My satisfaction came from the fact he desires to be his own person without fear of repercussion. As a kid, I would have preferred to blend in. There’s something to be said for someone willing to stand out for the right reasons, someone not afraid to march to the beat of his/her own drum.

This story makes me recall a trip my husband and I took with Joshua to Gatlinburg when he was a little over two. One of his favorite songs to listen to on that trip was a song called “Anticonformity.” He called it the “No Way Song.” (I promise he liked normal kid stuff like the Wiggles, too.) I vividly remember him perched in his car seat doing some serious head banging as he would shout, “No way!” at the appropriate time. If I had only known then that it was a foreshadowing of his future.

Here are the lyrics:

“Anticonformity” by Krystal Meyers

It’s all around
Pressure from my so-called friends
It’s all around
I’m measured by some stupid trend
It’s all around

Everyone is just like them
It’s all around
It’s all around
It’s all around

So I’m anticonformity
I don’t try too hard to be
I’m not what you think you see
Inside I’ve made a change
And I’ll never be the same
NO WAY!

They conform
Un-individuality
They conform
Forget about variety
Yeah they conform

They don’t know what they believe
They conform
They conform
They conform

Image is overrated if it washes off in the rain
You know you gotta go deeper to go against the grain

(If you’re curious you can watch it here on YouTube. We really knew how to rock.)

So, to be honest, recently I’ve been internally freaking out a little, as mamas tend to do. Under Armour is all the rage at my son’s school. Left up to me, he might have a shirt or two, but it comprises a good portion of his wardrobe due to my generous mother who wants to buy my boys what they like to wear. I’m not one to be too attracted to labels, and his obsession has baffled and worried me. As I sat in the bleachers watching my boy go against the grain, my mind eased a bit. I can only hope this line of thinking sticks for when he is a teenager.

Why do I worry about such things?

Because I want my son to feel like he belongs, but I don’t want him to feel like he has to fit in. There is indeed a difference. Brene Brown talks about it in her book Daring Greatly. Here is what she says, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

We all have a desire to belong. Do you know the pain of trying to fit in? I do. I have a few painful memories I could share.

Brene Brown also says this, “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” I can’t decide if I find that statement comforting or not. If nothing else, I see it as a challenge to become the kind of person I want my children to be. And hope that God will fill in the gaps in spite of who I am.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a child, or an adult, feeling like you have to fit in can be a danger. My friend and I attended a conference several months ago. We suddenly noticed a trend. First we noticed many of the women were wearing their hair in a messy bun, then we observed scarves were quite popular, and finally dark-rimmed glasses seemed to be the rage. We actually started counting how many of each. In fact, my friend noticed occasionally you could spot a woman with all three items. She termed it the bun trifecta. Now, I know this probably sounds incredibly immature of us, but it was kind of a “thing,” to the point I wondered if I had missed a memo. I didn’t know these things were quite so popular. I’m just not trendy like that. Honestly, I had a brief moment of feeling a tad bit like an outsider because I didn’t seem to fit the mold. Can you relate?

So, here’s to anticonformity. Maybe next year Joshua will wear a bow tie, but whatever way my son chooses to stand out, I will celebrate his individuality and learn from him to dare to be different…dare to be myself.

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You can download a copy of Brown’s parenting manifesto here. I think it’s a great model of things we should desire for our children that will help them become confident and secure individuals.

You can buy Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown here. I highly recommend it.

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13 thoughts on “Daring to Be Different

  1. As a non conformer who is incredibly oblivious to any style trend I applaud this post. My kids are 7 and 8, we don’t know the first thing about what’s popular in clothes here yet thankfully. I still have the same worries as you. I was a teenager once and I remember watching everyone go through their paces with “hot or not” trending. It was ridiculous but there was always a lot of pressure to be just like them. I hope my kids will keep on the way they are now(as your son certainly seems to be) and concern themselves more with the character of the person and less with the labels attached. 🙂

    • It shocks me that he is so aware at the age of 9. I know I didn’t notice anything until I was in 6th grade. I’m just glad he’s willing to step out of the box. I probably preach too much about how labels don’t matter. He’ll be rolling his eyes at me all too soon I suspect.

  2. A very long time ago I was concerned about fitting in. As I have gotten older, I realize that it isn’t important, but what is important is to show the differences, and not be afraid or ashamed of them. I am all about letting my kids live outside the box that society tends to put kids in. I personally love the hat 🙂

  3. I think this says a lot about your parenting style, too. My mom always encouraged me to just be me, fitting in was definitely secondary. I applaud you and J for raising boys who are comfortable being who they are; hats, Yoggies and all!

    • Speaking of Yoggie, it is the end of the school year, and Yoggie still camps by the door every morning waiting for Austin’s arrival home. Sometimes I wonder when it will end, but know I’ll be sad when it does. Sometimes it’s painful to let them discover their own way, but I don’t care to have cookie cutter kids.

  4. I love the hat! He looks adorable. This statement: “Because I want my son to feel like he belongs, but I don’t want him to feel like he has to fit in.” Wow! I can’t agree more. My son is one of a kind too. I love that about him. This will serve them well in many ways as they grow: peer pressure… Thank you for the parenting manifesto link. I had not seen it before. I’ll definitely be printing that out and framing it!

  5. Amy, I just had a conversation with my 6th grade son this week about kids at his school who we’re getting in trouble for bullying other kids who were different. My heart broke hearing it. And then he said, “I don’t know why kids do that, it’s dumb.” So grateful he thinks that way, but concerned as I know how hard it is to not want to conform, especially in middle school.

  6. I love the hat! I love this statement “Because I want my son to feel like he belongs, but I don’t want him to feel like he has to fit in.” Totally the cry of my momma heart too!

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