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.