I’m trying to do the near-impossible. I’m trying to teach my kids to be free. Really free, so when my son goes to school with wolverine hair, sweatpants and cowboy boots, I don’t make him change for proprieties sake. I tell him he looks cool. It’s true—he looks like him which to me is the coolest, most awesome boy in the world. I don’t warn him what others may say, because even though somewhere down the road some kid is going to come up to him and say, “you look weird,” I don’t want his first thoughts in the morning to be about other kids’ opinions. I don’t even want him to feel the breath of their stinky words on his face—I just want him to be wildly him. Same for my daughter. As long as their clothes fit (enough), are clean and self-respecting, I want them to throw caution to the wind and set the standard for being free. Free from the thousands of articles, blogs and essays from experts around the world who will all have differing yet authoritative opinions on how kids should dress, and make friends and score high on their SATs.
What defines an expert, really?
I love social media—except the constant flood of criticism: There’s the “Open letter” format in order to publicly humiliate someone, the latest book with the latest formula from the expert *who hasn’t had any real-life experience yet,* the celebrity who thinks being famous makes them an expert on everything, and the piles of articles by mental health experts who pontificate on the psychological effects of wearing cowboy boots and sweatpants together, and lastly, the facebook ranter who is angry and defensive and insecure about all things. Every five minutes.
I’m not as worried as their teachers are when my kids do poorly on a paper or a test. I experienced that in bulk, and I survived. In fact, I credit my parents for never comparing me to anyone and telling me that as long as I did my best and nurtured my in-born talent, my grades were cool with them. Really. That made all the difference.
We all knew I would never be a mathematician and we were ALL cool with that.
I credit my grandparents for boosting my self-esteem by always telling me I was pretty, even in the glasses/braces/pimples stage. My Grandma once pushed aside my report card where I actually (mistakingly?) made the honor roll, to point out and compliment a drawing I had done. She got me. She saw me. My identity was not rooted in my performance for a school who called the arts “just hobbies”, thank the Good Lord. That wise move on Grandma’s part had to have been a God thing, for so many reasons.
As a rule, I don’t like “how to” books, but sometimes I’ll pick one up—just in case. My favorite parenting book of ALL time is Boys Will Be Joys by David Meurer. Want to know why? He doesn’t give the readers a formula to copy, or a finger shaking for making mistakes, he just tells us his raw story of raising his kids, goof-ups and all. And it’s hilarious—there’s your key. If your expert can find joy in the big picture, that’s a good sign, and an authentic source.
Once upon a time, I worked at a boarding school for troubled teens. I had yet to have kids of my own, but after learning a bit about the students’ histories, psychological problems, tendencies toward manipulating their way through life (a sure sign of feelings of unworthiness and fear, and/or sometimes mental illness), I learned that no expert can replace the thing a child needs most: their parents love and acceptance. But even when they get that, sometimes a child has an itch to take a prodigal journey. Adults do it too. And it’s okay that we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes rebellion is a good thing as long as it’s not destructive. But those who were planted in a garden of love and acceptance will have that root to follow back home.
As cliché as it sounds, the world will benefit from more love. How easily someone can get destroyed on social media for one bad—or good—moment. That’s someone’s daughter. Someone’s son. Maybe they’re a mess because there are too many experts telling them things, but not enough people supporting them.
How many people really care what shoes Melania Trump wears? She was there—in the Houston flood zone—that’s what matters, but what made the news? The outrage the public had about her choice of footwear.
Should we tear apart Miley Cyrus for going through a difficult season, or send some love her way?
What’s happening with us? Our one nation, one people, with one God has been torn apart by many false gods called, unworthiness, anger, fear, and rejection.
So it’s time to be free. God made us unique—that’s how it is. Have you read those articles that criticize those who try to be unique? Those articles are based in fear, friends. Being different is God ordained. Something to be celebrated, for He is the great giver of joy and wisdom—the expert above all experts, and He didn’t make us to hate one another or to fit into fallible molds. If you’re following the crowd, please stop and question why. Is it healthy? Because you were made to have your own place in God’s divine plan.