My first grader, he likes to fit in. He is very bright and typically well mannered, he has a cute sense of humor, an older soul than his six years, and is a very people pleasing kid. Instead of feeling slighted, he is the first to say, “that’s OK,” when something doesn’t go his way… except with his sister, of course.
I, at thirty-seven, on the other hand, am at peace with not being liked by everyone. Do I like it when someone can’t stand me, or want to be disliked? Uh, no. But let’s face it, sometimes it happens. I realize that life is way too short to spend much time worried about someone not liking me, there are people who just won’t. I pretty much say what is on my mind whether that makes me popular or not. If you’ve been reading So Wonderful, So Marvelous for any length of time, you probably already know this. My outspoken self is probably a direct result of being raised by someone who has always taught her daughters to be themselves and to open your mouth when something isn’t right.
You don’t participate in something that you think is wrong, whatever ‘right or wrong’ might be in your eyes. You don’t sit idly by and let someone get belittled or harmed. You stick up for yourself and for others. You open your mouth and say that it’s not alright to make racist, misogynistic, or bigoted comments or to put someone down when it happens in front of you. You say out loud when something is hurtful or just bullshit.
Even when it seems like everyone else thinks it’s fine.
I would venture a guess that a lot of people struggle with times when their moral compass is facing a different direction than others. It’s hard to do sometimes. You are afraid of repercussion, of retaliation, of being the oddball, of being disliked, of being the pejorative complainer.
So instead, you shut up. You go ahead and ignore that knot in your stomach signaling that maybe something isn’t OK. Maybe you kick yourself later, wishing you had said something.
I get it because I’ve done it.
It is sometimes harder for me to be the outspoken one as a parent. I find myself checking my comments when I think someone is behaving like an idiot. I put little things aside because in the grand scheme, they aren’t worth rocking the boat. I weigh the fallout on my kids for voicing my opinion. But I also know in my head where that limit is. Some things are just not OK, even if it seems like everyone else is going along with it.
And then you have to explain to them that, yes, Johnny’s parents think it’s ok to do that and it’s their prerogative for their family, but no, your mom and dad don’t think it is ok. You have to teach them because you are the parent, it’s your job.
I have no doubt that this is only going to get harder as they get older.
My friend just did this when two of her boys were asked to play in an exhibition football game at an NFL stadium. It was a special thing, their teammates were excited and she wanted to say yes. The only caveat, she and her husband decided a long time ago as a family there are no sports, work, or other activities on Sunday. For them, it’s church time and a family day with no exception. When we were talking a little later, she said that sometimes it’s hard feeling like the weird ones for sticking with it, but that she knows it’s the right decision for their family. She doesn’t at all feel like other families are wrong for choosing something different, yet it’s still difficult when other people don’t afford them the same understanding.
She and I are very different, yet as parents, we both identify with what that moment is like to be the dissenting opinion and do what you think is best for your child.
Last year, they announced that if the school met their fundraising goal, the top fundraiser in each class would be able to silly string some administrators. Administrators who would be duct taped to the flagpole in front of the school. Which? Was NOT at all ok with Dave or with me. Finn was the third highest fundraiser in the school, so he was picked for his class. The silly string was fine, the ushering of an entire school outside to crowd around to watch two people get duct taped to a flagpole while the kids took turns with the silly string, wasn’t. Not even a little bit. It didn’t matter that they were adults or that they were doing it willingly. It didn’t matter that other parents had come up with this reward and thought it was fun. So, as a very new kindergarten parent, I marched my happy ass into the school and talked to someone about it. I was told that they would just ‘downplay’ the duct taping by using brightly colored tape, but that they wouldn’t take it out completely. “It’s fun because it’s pink!” At that moment, my head wanted to explode and I even contemplated pulling those funds he had raised until someone gently reminded me about what a difference that money makes for the kids at his school. Instead, with his teacher and his principal’s ok, I picked him up early. I also got the added bonus of explaining to my five year old why it is never ok to use duct tape on another human being EVER and why his mom and dad did not want him to participate.
Hey guess what? I’m also the parent that thinks these dumbasses who duct tape a kid and post it on Facebook in the name of a joke should be in trouble. I’ll just be the person over here thinking you all have lost your damn minds and you can think I’m over-reacting. I’m good with that.
Recently, we had something else come up that Dave and I both felt as strongly about. He is my measure, that husband of mine, his calm balances my loudness and liberal compulsion to right the world’s injustices. We talked about how to handle it, I talked to other parents who were also understandably upset, some who felt that there would likely be problems if they said something, and decided that ultimately this was one of those cases that fell under the ‘this is really not OK’ umbrella. The situation was clarified and taken care of, but I’m sure the person involved is pissed that we said anything at all. I have to be alright with that and so does our son, whether he completely understands why or not.
Until he does, I’ll be his squeaky wheel.