Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Clone War

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One of the biggest challenges of parenthood has to be teaching your child to be an individual and not follow the crowd. Because, as important as individuality is, there is a fine line that separates your kid as unique and interesting to others, to being "too different" or "too weird" and thereby unaccepted and friendless. And the pressure to be like everyone else starts very early, I have learned--even as early as 1st grade.

This morning, I attended the "Book Character Parade" at my son's school. It's an annual event where the kids all dress up as their favorite storybook character and parade around in costume waving the favorite book for all to see. And, while the kids were very cute and I enjoyed it, some of what I saw actually concerned me a little.

My son was so excited to wear his Halloween costume for the parade. He was a Clone Trooper from Star Wars. And, as it turned out, so was practically every other little boy from kindergarten to second grade. There were CLONES upon CLONES. It was, by far, the costume of choice this year. And, when I looked at the little girls, there were more clones--this time in the form of Junie B. Jones. Yep, it was Cloneses and Joneses as far as the eye could see. So many, in fact, that it almost felt like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Now, instead of being disappointed that everyone had his costume, my son was absolutely thrilled. He was just like all of his friends! And, I was happy for him in a way. Being a child who does not always feel included in everything with neighbor friends, this was a good feeling for him to have.

But, in another way, I was not really happy at all. There was a big part of me that was disappointed that he didn't choose something more original. That he didn't want to be different and special. That he really loved being just like everyone else so very much.

It worries me some, this need of his to match and conform. I wonder how does one teach someone to not be afraid to be different. And, am I teaching him to be this way with my own behaviors?

Because I live in the suburbs in a house that looks like most everyone else's on our street, I drive a car that matches most other mom who lives in my neighborhood, and I have some of the same interests as a lot of people around me. Does that actually make me a suburban clone? Have I become that generic? Does he only see a society around him that conforms to be just like everyone else surrounding it?

It is enough to make me want to go dye my hear jet black, shave it off short, and get a few tattoos. Maybe I could really buck the system and trade my SUV in for a small hybrid or a Harley? Instead of scrapbooking, I'll switch my hobby to macrame or pottery and offer Swedish massage sessions out of my garage. Yeah, that's the ticket! Now THAT would stand out in suburbia!

So now, for all the times I have fretted over whether or not we fit in here and if my son's making friends and is well-liked, I suddenly have begun not to care about that much at all. I realize now that it is much more important to raise a child who is happy with who he is, right then and there, instead of one who must look or act like another to feel content.

All Cloneses and Junie B. Joneses aside, I'm going to embrace my inner-Yoda and teach my kids to not be afraid to break out of those social molds.

“Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.”
Yoda, from Star Wars

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Blogger FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

Yes kids sometimes want to belong to a group that they almost do what others do to belong. It is very important for your child to know that what he wants to do is something he wants to do for himself and not because he wants it just to belong. This is why as parents, rearing up a child is a challenge now-a-days.

9:04 AM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous GhostHost said...

Wow, I was so inspired by this post I impulsively forwarded it to my homeowner's association. However, I've begun to develop the lurking fear that the ex-Nazis who comprise the entire organization may begin to single me out. Do you think it's too late to hide the pink flamingos and planter-toilet? ;)

1:48 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

It's hard to teach them to embrace their individuality. My LLB wore all Hanna Andersson clothes for years - she was the only one. She looked great, but different from the other kids. It didn't bother her until this year - grade 6 when she wanted to be like the other kids. She still has some Hanna things, but they are far more subdued than in years past.
#1 Son - he's always been himself. I love that about him! He still plays with action figures at the age of 14. He still watches cartoons. He is a terrific kid!
Fear not! If you encourage their individuality at home - it will naturally flow to school and beyond.
As for Junie B. Jones - I can't stand her!

7:41 AM, November 07, 2006  

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