It’s taken me 33 years to become who I am.
Someone that I am proud of.
Someone that can stand up for herself.
Someone that is authentic and true to herself.
To get here I had to unlearn a lot of things.
That is okay to not follow the crowd
That popular opinion is not always mine
That conventional ways of doing things may not be the right way for me
So it is confronting for me when Julian, now in full-time school, just wants to be like everyone else.
He wants to belong.
He wants to behave and please and fit-in.
It started with the uniform, something that is optional this year at school.
After it was clear that nearly a third of the class had chosen uniform and as he was not in one, I asked him what he would like to wear.
“Uniform. I want to be like everyone else.”
A trip to the uniform shop entailed and when I got him the jacket and trackpants (he hadn’t expected them) he said, “I’m one lucky kid.”
Next his beautiful hair.
“I don’t want to be like a girl. It’s too long. I want spiky, like lines.”
We tried to talk him out of it.
“Who has hair like this? You have gorgeous hair. You need to be you, not follow others.”
But it didn’t work.
I didn’t want our opinion of his hair to cause him to be teased or become something we wanted for him but he hated.
So we went to the hairdressers and he was happy with less cut off than we expected.
Next came friendship issues. Or so we thought. But we are not sure…we could have caused it.
One of the first questions I ask him when he gets in the car is:
Who did you play with today?
So then he is telling me who he did or did not play with. Who did or did not play with him.
Then I’d say why didn’t you play with so and so? Were you upset so and so wasn’t playing with you?
I ended up chatting with the teacher who said he had lots of friends but sometimes seemed to like to play alone too.
Hmmm….was I causing him undue stress but placing extreme importance on friendships and playing with everyone?
I stopped asking and he stopped getting upset.
So…the truth is I don’t know the answer to the question – how to get children to be themselves because maybe there isn’t one.
Maybe belonging and being part of the community teaches them to become who they are.
An essential part of their security to allow them to reach out with tentative steps to voice their own opinions and take their own actions.
There is certainly happiness is belonging and we all need a sense of community to anchor who we are and our position in the world.
What are your thoughts on this subject – have you gone through the same angst about it as me?