Two of my daughters have come to me in recent weeks in tears telling me that they are upset because “I’m weird, mommy.”
I would ask them, “why are you weird?”
And they would reply, “I am weird because…” and give me a reply.
One time my youngest told me, “I am weird because my brain is the smallest in the family because I’m the youngest”. (Although, interestingly enough, when asked to write a sentence about why she liked a particular book read on tape, she said, “Because the girl read it fluintly” – yes, my 6 year old daughter used the word fluently in a sentence. That was weird and awesome).
So, I’ve had to do some self-esteem building lately. And reinforce the message that it’s okay to be weird.
That weird is AWESOME FUN! (Yes, Rick, I did think of you when I wrote that…).
Like ice cream with sprinkles Awesome!
I still need to help them with that.
I’ve always been weird.
When I was about 10, while my sisters were playing with their Barbies, or their little girl friends, I was hanging out with my next door neighbor Barry chasing lizards and walking on our cinder block fences with him.
(I’m not sure why cinder blocks were used as fences in Alburquerque, but they were awesome to walk on.)
While my sisters hated to read, I read everything I could get my hands on…the dictionary, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the National Geographics, the Hardy Boys books (the originals), We were Five – The Dionne Quintuplets story, and my mother’s copy of The Happy Hooker (what can I say, it was the 70s, my mother was stoned half the time, and didn’t think to move that one off the family room bookshelf).
I am reading a book called Creating Love: The Next Great Stage of Growth by John Bradshaw. I came across a paragraph that struck me:
I was brought up to believe that love is rooted in blood relationships. You naturally loved anyone in your family. Love was not a choice. The love I learned about was bound by duty and obligation. You could never not love your parents or relatives, and loving them meant you couldn’t ever disagree with them or want something they disapproved of.
Yep, this is a pretty standard upbringing. If you want to be accepted into the fold, obedience to familial, cultural, religious and societal rules is pretty much drilled into the children at a young age. Why is that? Well, because that’s what’s ALWAYS been done. The price of acceptance and protection by your
herd family was your individuality, or for some in severely dysfunctional families, the price was your very soul.
My great-grandparents did it to my grandparents. My grandparents did it to my parents.
My mother tried to do it to her children. It worked on 4 of 5 of her children.
Bradshaw goes on to say,
To question any of these teachings was to risk being labeled a ‘black sheep’ or just plain crazy. To actually go against them was to feel cellular guilt, the price of breaking a sacred promise you never knew you made.
I know all about that. I’ve been the black sheep of my family ever since way back when. I was threatened to be written out of the family a few times…including once IN WRITING by my grandfather. I had the letter for the longest time. I’d like to find it and have it framed. Yeah, I know, that’s weird. But I’m proud of that, now (even if it did scare me way back when).
I became weirder and weirder by default NOT by design. Over the years, I became hardened (at least on the outside) to the insults of being seen as weird and crazy by my family. But I really couldn’t figure out why. I never ran with the wrong crowd (I had no crowd to run with). I never got anything other than my ears pierced and never cared to get a tattoo. I never experimented with smoking or drugs or sex in high school. I never expressed my individuality by becoming Goth.
I just went my own way, kept mostly quiet and to myself (I had a few other quiet, nice friends), until I reached the age I wanted to go away to college. And since I didn’t get to go where I got accepted, but had to go where they wanted me to, I stopped being civil. And suffice it to say, it got ugly.
I was into books.
I got along better with boys than with girls so I never knew how to be ‘girly’.
I daydreamed an awful lot.
I loved science.
I chose a career path that involved what I was passionate about – biotech.
I have been trying to do things differently with my daughters than my family had with me.
They have a weird mom who used to be in science and a weird dad who was a mechanical engineer-turned-massage therapy student.
I did science experiments with my kids when they were younger.
Instead of taking our kids to the movies (yawn), we take them to historical re-enactments and storytelling fairs.
I like taking pictures of (among other things) bugs.
I BLOG. That, in itself is weird.
I have four blogs.
I want them to know it’s okay to question authority and their peers.
I want them to know it’s okay to disagree with mom and dad sometimes.
I want them to know they don’t have to love their siblings. They really don’t even have to love me and Mr. RSG. My job is only to make sure they get to adulthood with the tools necessary to make sound decisions for themselves. Loving me and dad is optional.
This has been difficult, because Mr. RSG had been fairly certain, up til recently, that conformity to family rules is necessary.
Yes, we kind of disagree on parenting. I’m way more permissive and he’s a little bit more authoritarian. We clash from time to time. We are meeting a little more in the middle these days. It helps that I sent him to a gifted parents meeting on PERFECTIONISM (and yes, he’s going to guest post on it for me).
And my own daughters tell me to STOP being weird when I get up to climb on walls or curbs and sing in the car when the radio is on.
And even when you are a nonconforming parent, simply by sending your kids out into the world, they tend to want to conform so they find friends.
Social conditioning SUCKS.
I want them to love themselves.
I want them to LIKE themselves.
I want them to love being weird.
Even if that means they will take the road less traveled and fellow sojourners are hard to find.
I think that’s the best gift I can bestow on them.
But how do I more actively teach my kids that it’s okay to be weird?
To celebrate weirdness.
To revel in the joys of nonconformity (a little anyway).
How do YOU teach your kids that it’s okay to be weird?