We live in a world where social media blows up in praise of a young child for having the mind to wear a hot dog costume on dress like a princess day. Where the individuality and uniqueness of our kids is encouraged, shared publicly and praised often. At the same time we worry daily about our kids fitting in, being victims of bullying or even just simply if they have friends at school. This must be a really confusing message to our kids. We verbally coach them to express their unique style and personality while subconsciously we are coaching them to fit in.
This irony hit me when I myself recently posted on social media a sweet photo I was able to grab of my daughter strutting (oh yes, strutting) across our drive way in a dress, girlie head band and knee high boys Spiderman tube socks. She rocked those socks like.a.boss. The socks stayed on while at home but I noticed that later when we prepared to run errands she changed into different socks. Socks that might I dare say were “normal” for a girl to wear. When I realized what happened I couldn’t help but feel tremendously sad. Sad that at only four years of age she is already self-programed to adjust her physical appearance to social norms and not wear her Spiderman socks, which personally I thought were awesome, even to just run errands. I couldn’t stop thinking about this and the conflict in messaging to our kids between being your own person and the societal expectation to fit in.
Days later, while hanging around a swimming pool talking with other moms I realized that to varying degrees we all have similar swim attire, flip flops and even sunglasses. Heck, we even have similar hair styles and jewelry. Notably, there were no Spiderman tube socks or even any sort of adult equivalent in sight. Now I don’t believe for a second that in this great group of women there aren’t several that have uniqueness all their own that are simply not reflected in their outward attire. For whatever reason, myself included, we default to daily attire that looks just like our peers. This unofficial uniformity is the reality that our kids are living regardless of what we verbally encourage them to do. We say hot dog costume they see princess dresses. Like all aspects of parenting modeling the values we want our kids to embody is so much more important than the words we say. Our kids, heaven help them, follow our lead in all that we do even all the way down to our sock choices. Which is why I say, those of us that love the idea of a child brave enough to be in that hot dog costume on princess day need to remember to rock our own Spiderman socks like.a.boss too.