So. This perfectionist that is me has learned a very valuable lesson from her goofy kids:
It all started one day this school year. My kids, having removed shoes after a long day of learning, had on socks that did not match. I ain’t talking those accidental, it’s-too-dark-to-see-if-I-mated-correctly mismatches –nope! This was full on, I-clearly-do-not-care mismatching.
I was apoplectic. This was a sign of poor parenting resulting in lazy children. I had failed. They were on the road to complete doom guided by my lackadaisical hand. I must react swiftly and harshly, which I did.
But they kept on not matching socks. And wearing them out like that.
One day, after multiple failed attempts to reform my horrible, horrible little girls, I just asked the little one, “Why do your socks never match?!” To which she very blithely replied, “I dunno. Cause I like em like that.”
Too many times I have tried to squish my nonconforming children into traditional molds that they refuse to fit in. Like smashing a hexagon into a an oval. Or more like a star into a square. Neither of them is particularly disrespectful about this–they don’t huff, puff, or any other thing. Mostly they just shrug at my lame attempts to “shape them up” and skeptically intone, “Ummm… Okay. But I am not like that” while trying very hard to comply with my outrageous demands until I go away and forget all about it.
The lessons that I have learned are really quite simple.
My kids, like most, are really creative at expressing themselves. I am talking stripes on stripes, purple pants and orange shirts, dresses with sneakers and a hoodie, headbands on top of pigtails. Which is not a big deal except
I am more traditionally minded than I want to admit. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy m because they are doing something different… even as I recognize that I only feel that way because other adults are judgy as heck. My deep down goal is to nurture who they are despite how uncomfortable that may be. And so I constantly have to remind myself that
There is a fine line between order and control. I do not want to be a controlling parent. I want my kids to think for themselves and value their own opinions but be gracious listeners and considerate decision makers. That means not forcing my personal preferences on them when there is no physical or emotional danger or the possibility of them being mean, hateful, and disrespectful.
I have really great kids, and I bet you do, too. Let’s make a deal: we will continue to teach them to be kind and compassionate humans while allowing them to explore who they are. Even at the cost of a raised eyebrow or two.