My oldest son is halfway through first grade. With each passing week, the typical schoolyard norms worm their way into his psyche a bit more. It comes out in random comments or behaviors. It doesn’t affect him too regularly now, but I can see it increasing.
And each time it does, my heart hurts a little more for him. And I make another silent promise to myself to do everything I can to remind him that being himself is the right thing to do. Because there is only one him. And the world needs to see that version of him.
Like with anything I try to teach my sons, I’m a firm believer in leading by example. I want them to learn the power of hard work and never giving up, so I show them what that looks like in real time while chasing my own goals and dreams.
In this specific example, I want them to see it’s okay to be different than everyone else. To have your own style. To like different things. To be your own person. I dance like a fool with them at home. And in the car. I sing loud and off-key when we watch musicals. We talk about the different topics that interest us: from Super Mario Brothers to treasure hunting to math and reading.
And most importantly? I proudly claim the titles of weird or nerd or bookworm. Because I am each of those things. And I’m proud of it. My oldest will jokingly tell me I’m being weird. And my instant reply is always: Good. I’m proud to be weird. Weird people are the best people.
I know peer pressure and schoolyard norms will continue to take a more active role in determining how my sons feel like they have to behave as they grow. And as that happens, I will continue to be my own, weird self in all aspects of my life. If I don’t set the example, who will?
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