Celebrating Your Child While Ignoring the ‘Joneses’

I remember when one daughter insisted on wearing the same red sparkly shoes–think Dorothy, Kansas–each and every day. All day. With tights. In 90 degree weather. I wondered what other parents would think of me, especially since I had let the same child pair stripes and florals upon demand. But after considering how confident, how proud, how very “herself” she felt asserting herself in this way, I decided to reduce my role to making sure she was clean and checking to see that no body parts were inappropriately on display. The only real downside to this period of our lives was a small fortune spent on athlete’s foot medication.

We get so upset when our children flout convention or simply seem not to “get it.” We wear ourselves out correcting them lest they display our shortcomings as parents. Think of the 7th grade boy with greasy hair or the 12th grade girl bent on saving the planet by wearing only secondhand clothing–undergarments included. What will people think? What will they say? Occasionally, our children may be treated with cruelty, and on those occasions we stand by, ready to act. But an unkind remark might cause our son to make a change toward “normalcy” (whew!) or our daughter to stand up and defend her choices (wow!). So take a deep breath and steal a moment to admire your child for the amazing and inspiring way he is negotiating one of life’s most difficult tasks: not being you.

-Carolyn Buresh