Those of you that know me, and have known me for a long time know that I have *two sets* of children. The older ones (Heather 25, Holly 22, Kimberly 19) and the younger ones (Alexander 7, and Sedona 5). When I was a young mother, many things shaped what I *thought* mattered. I didn't have good parents, so it was important for me not only to be a good mother, but to be SEEN as a good mother. Hell, I never even allowed Heather to even try candy until she was 2. But, since I was never given the opportunity to even develop a healthy self esteem, I tried very hard to make sure that my girls were not *followers*, nor would they have to feel like second class citizens. I'm not saying I have been the perfect mother by any means...I am flawed just like every other average mom on the planet. But I HAVE gotten to watch the older set of girls mature into women with both inner and outer beauty who both march to the beat of their own drummers. I think the only time I ever put my foot down was when Heather was in elementary school and came home and told me that as soon as she was old enough, she wanted to get rid of her red hair and make it blonde (her bff was blonde, not sure if that had anything to do with it). I said NO WAY! AS long as you live under my roof, your beautiful hair stays AS IS (it has always been honestly beautiful....THICK...WAVY...BEAUTIFUL AUBURN). Finally, she told me that the REASON was because a boy had been making fun of her red hair for awhile and that she was the only red head in the whole grade. We got through that little hurdle and by the time they got to junior high age, my attitude was one of "Well, you're the one who has to walk around looking like that , so if you are confident about it, then rock it!". She never has changed her hair color, she started to become proud of the hair that made her stand out, and not ROCKS her red locks, and occasionally rubs it in our face that she has awesomely perfect thick , wavy red hair that never seems to look bad. EVER. Much to the chagrin of Kim and I...who are both members of the fine, straight hair club.
So here I am, now with a younger set of children, both in younger elementary grades. Doing it over. Only this time, it's different. Today, there are many more prejudices. Many more things that one should arm their children against if they have any chance in surviving the gauntlet between childhood and adulthood. Rather daunting, huh? Racism...Classism....Sexism....anti-LGBTism. All prejudices that have the root of just pure hatred of anything not the same as *you*. And there is WAY too much of it regaining traction in recent years.
Children aren't born with the notion that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. They aren't born thinking that one gender or race is superior to another. They don't come out of the womb making fun of others. They are just born as social beings. Without prejudice. Without prejudging. Without any philosophical leanings. All of these things are learned. Our men have had things bred into them for GENERATIONS that make the judging and bullying culture possible. They are taught from an early age to "Man Up"..."Don't throw like a girl"...etc. Shouldn't our goal as today's parents of tomorrow's men be to breed more compassion and less misogyny into them? You know, so that our daughters don't have to wade through the same kind of cesspool of' "Bro's" that exists currently in order to find someone to love down the line that is sensitive, treats women with respect?
Today, there is more prejudice than ever. In many homes, there is a mother or father explaining to their young boy "You don't want anyone to make fun of you, do you?" because he wants to wear a pink shirt because his favorite color at the moment happens to be pink. And there is a mother or father preaching to their daughter, "You have such pretty hair! Why would you want to chop it off? Aren't you afraid of what people think?", or to their son, "Earrings?? In BOTH ears?? Aren't you afraid of what ___ will think?". These fears are not owned by the children, but by their parents who are ultimately just afraid of what people will think as it relates to them because, ultimately, "our children are a reflection of us"...RIGHT?!?!?!?
Little Sedona...Almost from birth, she has definitely had her preferences as far as what she wears. For most of her life, she intentionally chose non -matching socks. Why? Because there's MORE COLOR that way, that's why! DUH! And she doesn't particularly like "matching" outfits. She just likes to wear what she likes, and that is that. And if that day it happens to be cheetah print shirt, polka dot pants, stripe socks, every color of the rainbow somewhere on her body, she is DAMNED happy. And confident . Ready to take on the world. And I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, my philosophy FOR YEARS is to make sure that my GIRLS know that their self worth is not contained in the clothing they wear, the hair styles they wear, the shoes they wear, the makeup they wear, or the jewelry they wear. Nor is their self worth in any way tied to ANYONE ELSE'S OPINION ON ANY OF THE ABOVE. Not thinking this will be a problem with Sedona...as she already solidly has cemented her own drummer to her inner girl ;).
Quite a while back, a few years, actually, I had an occasion where Heather was here and she was painting Sedona's nails. And Alex asked to have his painted. Initially, I hesitated, and said, NO. But then the totally innocent question came...."But WHY? Why can't I have nail polish too? I like colors and I like sparkles too!". The inner dialogue was saying "But what will people think? Do you want people to make fun of you? Nail polish is *for girls*...". And on it went. But I didn't vocalize it. Instead, do you know what I did? I allowed my son to have his nails painted. Damn SKIPPY he did!! How do you explain prejudice to someone who has absolutely no idea of the concept? How do you explain *why* someone might make fun of him when he wouldn't be able to comprehend? What, tell him that someone might insult him and call him a girl??? Nosiree! Not for one GODDAMN second would I allow him to think that it is OK to call someone a GIRL (or any variation of the word) as an INSULT. Yes, I get that he will surely experience the ugly that the world has to offer, and one day learn about what evil prejudices lurk within our society. But if I can arm him with the strength to understand that his identity is NOT tied to what anything any bully may think or say to him, then just maybe---he will grow into a fine young man who is not only confident, but compassionate, and maybe even be the guy who sees that ugliness happening to someone else and steps in to stop it. WHO KNOWS??? But, you know what? My boy rocked that dark blue nail polish.
And do you know what? We were polishing nails at the beginning of the school year, and he wanted them polished them again. Sure. No problemo. The boy went to school proudly showing off his nails that had alternating colors of blue. So what? He likes blue. And he wears a mohawk. Not because he fancies himself as a punk genius, but because he just thinks they look cool. So my boy definitely has his own drummer as well, and NOBODY has ever made fun of him.
Which brings me to today...and the encounter. Last night, Alexander wanted to have the new Christmas glitter polish on his nails. Sure, WHAT THE HELL! WHY NOT? He's got the spirit! So we polished one hand with the polish with red and green glitter, and the other hand with holographic glitter (VERY cool, btw...from Loreal, picked it up at Target). He wanted to be festive, AND blow the mind of one of his teachers. This morning, all he could talk about was showing his teachers his glittery nails. And they were duly impressed.
While I was watching him put his things in his locker down the hall, and talk excitedly about the nails he wanted to show, there was a parent/grandparent dropping off their child as well. She was not familiar to me, but she said, "He must have older sisters". I said, "Yes, he does.". To which she replied with an innocent smile, "That explains it (insert snicker here)".
I said, "Well, actually, his sisters do not live at home, I painted his nails after he asked me to. If I am intent on making sure my daughters are well equipped with thinking that their worth is not tied in to the clothes and other adornments they sport, how can I have a double standard and not do the same for my son?". I went on to say, "I don't have a problem with any of my children as far as how they want to wear their hair, get their ears pierced, etc..." to which she kept chiming in "Within reason, though..." and "You have to draw the line somewhere, though, right?", "You don't want people making FUN of him at some point, DO YOU?"
Now, some of this conversation was inside the building, in the lobby. The rest of it, starting with the last question, was outside in the parking lot. This whole time, EVEN as my inner bitch had been awakened, by even keeled side ran the show. I listened to her just make small talk, smile and nod, talk about our children, etc. During all this, my peripheral vision caught some writings (ACTUAL.WRITING!) on her minivan windows. One window with a cherry picked bible quote that says something about the end times, and the other some kind of anti Islam bullshit. Which, to me, explained alot. A.LOT. Because our conversation started innocently enough, and kept feeling a bit judgmental, and a tad preachy. And I was polite, but was SO VERY GLAD when it ended and I climbed into my car. Who the hell is SHE to presume for one nanosecond that her opinion on the way I raise my child will have any bearing on how I do it? I will surely be running into her from time to time, and I will always be nothing but pleasant, kind, and upbeat to her...because I choose to end my feelings of disgust and anger with this ranty post. And I know that I stand the same chance of making her see the proverbial light as she has of making me believe in *cough* the bible (or her version of it, anyway).....which is about the same chance that a snowball stands in hell. But, honestly.....I sincerely hope, for her sake, that she never has a chance to utter one syllable of her brand of disdain within earshot of my son.
I wish people like that, the snickering, prejudging ones, the looking down their sanctimonious nose types...I wish they could see themselves as I see them. I see them as they would look in a wacky fun house mirror , looking down their noses at others...always judging, always preaching, always "knowing better"...
Just because my son wears a mohawk , and I not only encourage but ALLOW his nails to be painted, doesn't make him a girl or feminine anymore than her fundamental hatred of other religions makes her a Christian. And SHIT, he would have at least one ear pierced too if he didn't change his mind because he has an insanely low pain tolerance, and even the notion of momentary pain from the piercing gun gives him heartburn.
Getting back to being defined by our outward appearance and/or adornments - Why do we put SO much stock in it? Why is it SO important for us, as a society, to keep pushing the same dogma on to our children that was spoon fed to us? What does it say to our children who, on one hand, hear us cite the fear of ridicule as a reason to not look/act/dress a certain way, and on the other hand, try to sell the idea of not giving TWO SHITS about what other people think and to NEVER be a sheeple? How can we expect them NOT to be conflicted and uncertain, and vulnerable to bullies if we can't even shoot a straight answer to them?
Simply? Just break the cycle. Sure, we have to make sure our children know that there are laws that state that their HooHas and nether regions are covered in public, and school and workplace guidelines that ensure that they remain learning and employed, but as long as they are the ones that are confident to stand behind their hair/makeup/clothing choices, what is it to anyone else? Whose business is it?
Don't create a culture of fear in our children....embrace their unique desire to be individuals. If we teach our children to be afraid, the judgey people win. How can we expect them to be fearless of the opinions of others if we teach them TO be afraid of the opinions of others? Don't let pomposity win out ;).
Thank you for reading my rather wordy rant...I know it got a bit preachy but , hey....it could always be worse. It COULD have been filled with F bombs and such ;). Love you all!