Growing up, I was a weirdo. A drama geek, choir lover, and yeah, played the trumpet in the marching band. My hair had been every color of the rainbow, including rainbow from the red roots to the purple tips. Most piercings I've ever had at one time? Twenty-three. I had outfits that fit in the "raver" category, some that were girly and sweet, some that were nerdy. My sister wore pierced cat ears to school quite often, and I'd sometimes wear fuzzy purple bunny ears. Like I said, I was weird.
Most importantly, though, I was really happy with myself. I enjoyed the crap out of the teenage ability to explore who I was, who I wanted to be, and I ignored cliques as much as I could, table-hopping in the lunch rooms, sitting with "preps" and "the smokers" (though not everyone smoked) as much as the "geeks" and my favorite friend group of equally weird kids.
And I want my son, Rowan, to be just the same. But right now, he's really focused on being exactly like someone else.
Still, I think that is okay. My kiddo is the second smallest kid in his first grade class, and he's a little socially awkward and also has some speech delays. He doesn't handle social conflict as well as he could, and right now can't really stand up for himself.
But he's latched onto a kid who can and I love it. Let's just call this kid "Silas." Rowan requests to buy the same shoes that Silas wore that day, wants a tie for his birthday because Silas likes to wear them, and even got his hair cut similarly. And frankly, I'm totally okay with it. Not because I want him to feel that he has to dress like his peers, but because he's chosen a friend who is very comfortable in his own skin, and he is mimicking that. In fact, his new haircut allows for a faux-hawk, and when he asked if he could wear it like that, with blue hair gel, I said okay.
What happened then? Silas complimented Rowan's choice, and not only did Rowan feel pleased that the child he idolizes then wanted to copy him, but he also started to feel more comfortable making a little more "out there" choices, things he'd wanted to do but was too nervous to. That is what I love about his relationship with this kid. He's learning self-confidence on the back of his friend who already has it.
I'd much rather he learn self-confidence and accept himself for the cool, short, video-game loving, book-devouring weirdo that he is than feel that he needs to try to blend into the background and avoid being different. If he wants to choose to do some things more like his peers, that's HIS choice, not mine. I also would much rather prefer that he has one or two friends who are really emotionally and mentally healthy for him than have a ton of people who he could call friends, but aren't really friends.
Because you see, every day I sat at another table, I always returned to one little one, my fellow weirdos, because despite being comfortable enough to branch out to any group, I also still knew who my friends were. And they're weirdos too and revel in it. What's important for my family isn't teaching my son how to be like everyone else, it's how to interact in a healthy way with everyone else while being totally comfortable being himself.
Do you teach your kids to embrace their personal eccentricities?