Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is conformity a good idea?

I am personally mulling over this idea on two fronts.

My middle child, is what many people would call a "strong-willed child". I call it having a strong sense of self. She is louder than some children, has VERY definite opinions on just about everything. If I have said something questionable, I can count on her to repeat it at the worst possible moment. She is most likely to snitch a cookie or push the boundaries. If offered a candy, she will negotiate for more. Chloe tends to want to influence the situation, instead of allowing it to influence her. Her hair is usually wild because she has snatched the pretty things I put right out of her hair as soon as I turn my back. She KNOWS what she wants to wear even if it is leopard print tights with a pink flower skirt. She keeps me on my toes. I have received many opinions that imply that something is wrong with her, that I need to force her into fitting better into the box of what is the norm. But that box doesn't fit her, and I can't figure out why I should change her (short of outright disobedience, that we will force a change on). She is who she is. Who am I to force her to be something is isn't? What a huge message of rejection that would send to my child. I might as well skywrite "YOU AREN"T GOOD ENOUGH". If God creates each of us unique, who am I to try to force everyone to conform to one standard?

If there is a direct opposite to this, it's my oldest daughter. She is an introvert. She is a peacemaker and willing to sacrifice herself for others happiness. A bit more of a thinker. She is quiet, and she likes having time to herself for more introverted endeavors. She is very laid back, able to adjust and be flexible in just about any situation. I have gotten lots of opinions from other people about how I need to force her to be less shy. I need to make her more comfortable in large social groups. I need to push her out of the nest. I feel the pressure this puts on me. But again, I just can't figure out why I need to do that. She is who she is, who am I to reject who she is and try to force my mask onto her? She is beautiful just the way she is. As much as the world needs extroverted movers and shakers, it also needs quiet thinkers.

Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people, usually because they want to achieve a sense of security within a group. But that is a false sense of security. That leaves the nagging doubt that if you let the mask slip, if folks get a glimpse of who you really are, they would reject you. Yuck! Why not just BE YOURSELF. We are, who we are. Whether we are an introvert, or extrovert we are who God created us to be. Look at how diverse the entirety of nature is, why do we as a society think there is only one way to be? Why can't we all be daring enough to be a little different? As someone who isn't the best at conforming, all this got me thinking.

This thinking has led me to a conclusion about our family. We are going to reject all the opinions of the well meaning people who think we need to change our children's essential natures. God forgive me for the times I have tried to force conformity on my kids. Our family is a place where you can be yourself, your authentic self, without fearing rejection. We get you, and we accept you EXACTLY as you are. As much as we can, we will help you grow to be whomever you are meant to be. Not carbon copies of us, not replicas of our ideals. But we will try to guide you and help you find your own. If you are creative, we will try to nurture that. If you are concrete and logical (God help your creative mother in this), we will try to nurture that. If you are strong willed, awesome. If you are introverted, awesome. I can't guarantee this anywhere else in the world, because most of the time nonconformity includes a big risk of rejection. But here at home with your family, we love YOU for who you really are, deep down inside when no one else is around. My job as the Mom and parent is to make sure you know that down to your toes.


Rob said...

I personally like your approach (for whatever that is worth). It takes guts to let kids find themselves and just guide them along the way rather than cram them in a mold of conformity, usually for our own comfort. Kudos to you for having guts and sharing them here with us. (Ok that sounded gross but you know how I meant it) :)

Heather said...

Well, Rob got here first :)But I too agree, even though, at times it is extremely hard not to push just a little. I know I am guilty of this. But - God did make us who we are, and I will leave it up to Him to change us if need be.

Nice post.