Am I Raising Judgy Kids?


kids and I watched the Grammys on Sunday night (the first half, anyway), and we
watched as Hunter Hayes debuted his song, “Invisible.”  

One of the lines caught my attention. It
went, “Oh, and never be afraid of doing something different/Dare to be something

It’s not exactly an original
idea, but as the mother of an eleven year-old girl, it definitely resonated
with me. I think it struck a chord because, right now, for my daughter,
conformity is the name of the game.  All
I hear these days is how she has to have this or that, because “everyone has
it.”  And when I ask her why she would
want to have something that everyone else has, she looks at me like I’m an

I’m not exactly winning any awards for my daring sense of style.  I’ve never shaved half of my head, or put
pink streaks in my hair.  I don’t have
tattoos.  I don’t wear black
lipstick.  In retrospect, I kind of wish
that I had gone through a punk rock or a Goth or a hippie phase.  If anything, it would be great material for
my writing.  But I just never had the
nerve.  I was never quite daring

At the same time, however, I
don’t have a problem with anyone who is. And yet, as we watched the Grammys, I noticed that my daughter had a
comment for everyone.  

Lorde was weird
because she’d dipped the tips of her fingers in black paint and she moved her
hands aggressively when she sang.  Pharrell’s big brown hat was weird. Ryan Lewis’ suit with the giant houndstooth pattern was weird.  Daft Punk with their robot helmets were weird.  And then that adorable Hunter Hayes sat down
at the piano, and he was weird because of the faces he made when he sang about
daring to be different.  The irony was
most definitely lost on her.

to her, I realized that I am obviously not doing a good enough job when it
comes to teaching tolerance.
  It’s one
thing to teach your kids that someone’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual
orientation have nothing to do with whether someone is a nice person or
not.  But what about teaching your kids that
how people dress and style their hair doesn’t matter, either?  Why do we automatically label nonconformists
as “weird,” or “strange?” 

I was in high school, I knew a guy – we’ll call him Mark – who dressed like
nobody else.  Mark wore army jackets and
combat boots way before they were trendy. 
He had an asymmetrical haircut. 
He wore black eyeliner and nail polish. 
At one point, Mark tied a decapitated Barbie head to one of his
shoelaces.  He was
definitely different.  “Weird,” even, I
guess.  But Mark was also one of the
nicest, coolest guys I knew.  And knowing
him taught me a lot about not judging people so harshly just because they
choose not to dress like everyone else.

a person, I try really hard not to make judge-y, offhand comments about
peoples’ appearances, whether they’re celebrities or people I know.  As a parent, I need to try to make sure that my
kids do the same.

Why is Lorde weird
just because she wears dark lipstick and paints her fingers black and
gesticulates with her hands?  Isn’t she
just expressing herself and who she is? 
I didn’t particularly care for Pharrell’s hat, either, but wearing it to
the Grammy’s with jeans and a sweatshirt definitely made a statement.  Why are Daft Punk weird just because they
wear robot helmets?  Ok, fine.  Maybe that is a little weird.  But it’s also genius that they get to be
international superstars and nobody knows what they look like.  When my daughter says someone is weird, those
are the things I need to be saying back to her. 

get it that my daughter isn’t going out to the thrift shop to hunt for unique
outfits any time soon, and I’m okay with that. 
It’s terrifying to be eleven, and the last thing you want to be at that
age is different if you don’t have to be.  

But even if she spends the rest of her life following trends and never
breaks from the masses, I just hope that I’m able to teach her to appreciate
the people who take risks, and to admire those who dare to be different.



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