My Odd Children

Last week when the kids and I were at the pool, I had a sudden realization: My children are odd. On the surface, they may look “normal”—they have friends, they enjoy watching TV, they follow rules—but underneath it all, there is “a uniqueness” that always seems to bubble up. Like the other day at the pool, I was sitting in the shade, quietly reading a book when my daughter came over to me and said,

“Look at your son!”

I looked up to see him strutting around the pool, knees bent, one hand covering his mouth while the other was extended in front of him, moving from side to side. He was beat-boxing. I just stopped and stared, and then smiled at his complete oblivion to the people looking—and laughing—at him. A few minutes later, feeling my eyes on him, he looked up, scanned the crowd, saw me and yelled “Hey!” as if I were spying on him.

This was not the first time I had seen him beat-box. In fact, he thinks of himself as quite the professional. At a recent camp talent show, he decided to beat-box while his friend was break-dancing. Unfortunately, I was working and didn’t get to see it for myself, so when he came home that day, I asked him how the talent show went. He told me that he thought that he and his friend were great—of course.

Watching my son strut around the pool made me think about the other ways that my kids have shown their unique—let’s call it—flair. My daughter has always demonstrated a desire to be different—to not follow the standard norms. Sometimes this can be seen in the her creativity around birthday party themes and halloween costumes, or in the way she still refuses to do her hair, or in the things she likes to both learn and to talk about.

A perfect illustration of this occurred a couple of months ago while at the grocery store. We were standing in line when my daughter asked if I would buy her some Sun Drop soda. I had never heard of it, so I said “No”—we were already in line, and I wasn’t in the mood to hold up the check out. The next thing I knew, she started to dance. I don’t mean a “normal” dance—instead, she was partially squatting down, butt in the air, arms extended in front of her, all while repeatedly bouncing backward and forward, singing “Drop it like it’s hot” over and over again. I stood there in stunned silence, unable to understand what had gotten in to her. Fortunately, there weren’t many people at the store to witness this spectacle, so I didn’t force her to stop. When the dance came to an end, she once again asked me if she could have some Sun Drop. In my confusion, I asked her what Sun Drop had to do with that dance, and she described the commercial for the soda that had a strange woman going around town doing this exact dance.

I told her she could go get the soda.

When thinking about the odd behaviors that my children sometimes exhibit, I began to wonder why I never get embarrassed—either for them or for myself—and why I actually derive some pleasure from watching them be so silly. The reality is, when I see them doing something like beat-boxing around the pool or “dropping it” at the grocery store, I get an overwhelming sense of well-being. I think it comes from knowing two things—the first is that my kids, even at the ages of six and eleven, are still unburdened by the self-consciousness that comes with age. I dread the day that they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or that they care too much about what people think. The other is that these behaviors give me a glimpse of the self-confident people that I hope they will someday be.

As I think about the advice I want to give my daughter, I am reminded of some advice I once gave to my husband about her. She must have been six or seven years old when she walked out into our kitchen—all ready for school—wearing one of the craziest outfits I had yet to see her put together. On top, she was wearing a multitude of layers including—but probably not limited to—a long-sleeved shirt underneath a short-sleeved one with a bright-colored mesh poncho. On the bottom, she was wearing leggings beneath a colorful plaid skirt with black boots. She didn’t walk into the kitchen expecting us to have a reaction—she just wanted her breakfast. When her father saw her, he incredulously asked,

“What are you wearing?!”

I don’t remember her answer—knowing her it would have been something like, “Clothes.” When she had finished her breakfast and left the room, I turned to my husband and told him to not overreact to her clothes. I felt strongly that she should be allowed to express her personality, and that we should be proud that she doesn’t want to be like everyone else (of course, in that same moment, I also had a flash of her being sixteen with blue hair and multiple piercings—but I decided to keep that small concern to myself). Now that she is a little older, her individuality does not stem from an act of rebellion because we have never tried to tell her who to be. Instead, I believe, it comes from a place of confidence and a strong belief in herself. So, I guess my advice to my daughter is to always remember her eleven-year-old self dancing in the grocery store, and to know that she should strive to always be as confident as she was then.

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44 thoughts on “My Odd Children

    • Thank you for such a sweet comment! I, too, look forward to see what kind of people they will grow up to be (although I’m not in any rush!). Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  1. It’s great cause they will not be afraid to be different, to be apart from the pack and to be individuals rather than mindless chickens. They have personality and charm and spirit…that’s what it is! And it’s great that you continue to nurture that.

    • I feel the same way, and it makes me very proud. Now that my daughter is 11, I think her personality is somewhat clear—and I find it difficult to imagine her suddenly becoming a follower. Because it is a big fear of mine, I keep doing whatever I can to prevent that from ever happening.

    • Thanks for the comment. I used to assume that everyone wanted their children to be “different” until I realized that most just want their children to be “normal” (whatever that is). Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  2. I am all for letting a kid be who they are, no matter how crazy (at least if it’s appropriate). There’s some level of self-expression that’s just natural and calling attention to it either makes the kid super repressed or more likely to go the other way and be super rebellious.

    • I completely agree. I think children, especially when they are young and unselfconscious, should be allowed to express themselves (that is unless they are throwing a fit at the mall or beating up each other in a restaurant) however they want. I guess I should clarify by saying that, when children are showing joy, they should be allowed to do it however they want. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I love the confidence your kids have. That’s something very special to WANT to be different. I think it’s good that they want to separate myself from the pack. I myself view things a lot differently than the average person and like your kids, it doesn’t matter to me if they approach life in a different way than me. I know my strengths and what I’m good at and your kids do too. I think you letting be themselves is the best way for young kids to remain grounded, but have a good grip on reality at the same time.

    There’s a special “fire” that ignites under someone who dares to think differently. Take Mark Zuckerberg for example. He’s beyond different and people look at him as a nerd. Did that stop him? Nope…he created Facebook. He has the last laugh. I believe those who choose to do things differently become the leaders for future generations and your kids are on their way to doing just that.

    I know I like to use examples of my personal life, but I feel it relates a lot to your kids. You and my mom react the same way, which I feel is why I connect with you. Here’s something I told my mom not too long ago….

    “I want to run my own company someday and I don’t care how long it takes me.” Her response, “I know you will.” That’s all the support and motivation I needed. Sometimes, that’s all it takes for your kids to achieve the impossible. Believe in them rather than saying, “That’s unrealistic.” You do a great job with allowing your kids to explore their creativity. It seems like your son may be really into music and your daughter has an “artist” way about her. She likes to dance, dress differently, and has a creative mind. I hope my kids are just as exciting as yours…I would be so pumped to see my kids reaching for the stars!

    • Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Frank. It sounds like you have an incredible mother—and it is a testament to her that you are becoming so successful. I love your story, and it makes me feel like I am on the right path with my kids. Thank you for taking the time to share it with me.

  4. If it makes you feel better, my kids are odd too. My 3 year old is trying to bring home girls from preschool and my 6 year old created his own version of karate and wants to make a show that is iCarly meets So You Think You Can Dance

    • Your comment made me laugh out loud, especially the one about your 6 year old. My son is OBSESSED with taekwondo, and he does it EVERYWHERE! It’s been commented on by a LOT of people. Your kids sound fabulous!

  5. Yay for your kids! I have always had a strong admiration for people who are who they are, regardless of what the world around them says.
    And kudos to you for being the type of mom who is raising her kids to be free in who they are!

  6. I love this. I also have an 11 yr old daughter, who likes to be who she is, too. I’m praying that never changes either.

    Thanks for linking up at the Bloggy Mom’s Writing Workshop this weekend!

  7. I love the sound of your kids. I have some that have walked to their own funky beat all along and it is one of things I have loved as a mom, so I understand what you mean about that sense of well being.

  8. I love how your were able to write your perceptions about how you see your children in such an eloquent way – and btw my hat’s off to you for raising individuals, not cookie-cutters out of a pattern. It’s not easy! (-:

  9. LOL! Your daughter is AWESOME! That’s genius! Why didn’t I think of breaking out into dance in public when my mom told me “NO!” Simply Brilliant!!…and cuz it got her what she wanted. Score!! 😉 You have a great attitude about it all. Laughing with rather than getting embarrassed is (more times than not) the best choice!! 🙂

  10. Pingback: My SITs Feature Day—Welcome! | a Book for My Daughter

  11. I. LOVED. THIS. POST. My kids (all 3 – ages 20, 15 and 3) are ALL “out of the box”. And I wouldn’t have them any other way. Your celebration and appreciation of their ‘flair’ will undoubtedly produce confident, secure and happy adults. Well done and so happy to have “found” you over at SITS! 🙂

  12. You are my kind of mama. I think it is a great gift that you can see your children clearly–or as clearly as we can ever do that as parents–and enjoy the “different” in them. I have gotten lots of mileage out of my kids in my books, and I predict you will, too! It’s a rich, rich writing well.

  13. What a wonderful post! I love that your kids are confident enough in themselves to be themselves! That’s something my mom instilled in my brother and I, and I’m happy to say, it doesn’t go away 🙂

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