“Why fit in when you were born to stand out? ” You could say that quote from Dr. Seuss summed me up when I was growing up. To say I had a very individual style is an understatement.
At an age when most girls were busy playing dress-up and fixing their hair, my hair was covered with a baseball hat. While my friends were playing with Barbies, I was outside tossing a tennis ball against the side of our house. And when my friends covered their walls with posters of the latest teen heartthrobs, I was putting up posters of football great Walter Payton.
My mom and dad always respected that I was my own person and had no trouble putting my true self or opinions out there, but they also told me that if I was going to do that, I needed to be ready to defend both and be confident in doing so. It was advice I carry with me to this day—both personally and as a mom.
My Turn Now
Years later, I have been blessed with four children who have their own very unique personalities and ways of doing things—as well as their mother’s strong will. I can’t count the number of times I used to tell them of their hardheadedness: “One day this will serve you very well. Right now it will just get you into a lot of trouble. “
As they get older, they are being served very well by their beliefs and convictions. A lot of times those ideas do not fall in line with the way that I or my husband, Mark, see things. I respect that. In fact, I take great pride in that. Having said that, I find one of the hardest parts of being a parent to be the reality that eventually I’m going to have to let go and step aside in order to let my kids become who they are truly meant to be.
Part of that process is allowing them to be themselves and state their opinions on things, the same way that my parents always did for me. For instance, I’ve never taken a hard line on things like my kids’ wardrobe choices—as long as it’s appropriate. That led to an entire year of our second youngest, Riley, wearing a Minnie Mouse dress every day. If she was OK with it, we were OK with it.
Mark and I have also tried to listen when our kids speak out on their perceived injustices of our house rules or their responsibilities. With our oldest two, the issues are often bigger, such as school policies, politics, environmental issues, or Church teachings. All we ask is that they are prepared and willing to defend their stance. If you’re going to take a stand on things, we tell them, you need to understand why and be willing to stick with your belief.
Stick to Your Story
But that is within the secure boundaries of our home. The trick is to teach them to carry it with them wherever they go, whether that be at school, on social media, or hanging out with friends. Most of all, I tell them, I want you to ask yourself if you’re willing to go to the mat for the message you’re sending through your words and actions. If not, I hope they ask themselves why and then are prepared to stand by what they do and believe. Actually, that’s not such a bad message for all of us to think about.