Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Judgy Kids?

My kids and I watched the Grammys on Sunday night (the first half, anyway), and we watched as Hunter Hayes debuted his song, “Invisible.”  

One of the lines caught my attention. It went, “Oh, and never be afraid of doing something different/Dare to be something more.”  

It’s not exactly an original idea, but as the mother of an eleven year-old girl, it definitely resonated with me. I think it struck a chord because, right now, for my daughter, conformity is the name of the game.  All I hear these days is how she has to have this or that, because “everyone has it.”  And when I ask her why she would want to have something that everyone else has, she looks at me like I’m an alien.

Now, I’m not exactly winning any awards for my daring sense of style.  I've never shaved half of my head, or put pink streaks in my hair.  I don’t have tattoos.  I don’t wear black lipstick.  In retrospect, I kind of wish that I had gone through a punk rock or a Goth or a hippie phase.  If anything, it would be great material for my writing.  But I just never had the nerve.  I was never quite daring enough.  

At the same time, however, I don’t have a problem with anyone who is. And yet, as we watched the Grammys, I noticed that my daughter had a comment for everyone.  

Lorde was weird because she’d dipped the tips of her fingers in black paint and she moved her hands aggressively when she sang.  Pharrell’s big brown hat was weird. Ryan Lewis’ suit with the giant houndstooth pattern was weird.  Daft Punk with their robot helmets were weird.  And then that adorable Hunter Hayes sat down at the piano, and he was weird because of the faces he made when he sang about daring to be different.  The irony was most definitely lost on her.

Listening to her, I realized that I am obviously not doing a good enough job when it comes to teaching tolerance.  It’s one thing to teach your kids that someone’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation have nothing to do with whether someone is a nice person or not.  But what about teaching your kids that how people dress and style their hair doesn't matter, either?  Why do we automatically label nonconformists as “weird,” or “strange?” 

When I was in high school, I knew a guy – we’ll call him Mark – who dressed like nobody else.  Mark wore army jackets and combat boots way before they were trendy.  He had an asymmetrical haircut.  He wore black eyeliner and nail polish.  At one point, Mark tied a decapitated Barbie head to one of his shoelaces.  ModernMom.com [1]

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