Thursday, June 7, 2012

A normal family?

Camille, in visible distress, wished today for a "normal family".  Setting aside my initial internal reaction of hurt feelings, and ignoring that voice that wanted to lecture her about how good she's got it, I calmly asked her what that would look like.  "You know... NORMAL."

So, we had that conversation.

More structure around mealtimes and bedtimes?  "No."  More limits and spelled-out rules and expectations, less open-ended choice and freedom?  "No."  Live in a finished house in town?  "No." Attend sports games?  Eat hotdogs?  What?

"I don't actually want to be a normal family.  I just want to look like a normal family."

OK, now we're getting somewhere.  She had been teased in her summer school classes about having such a weird looking Mama, and apparently it's been stressing her out for awhile.  In rural Wisconsin, dreadlocks and flow-y clothes are not exactly the norm.  I have consciously made sure to keep my hairy legs and armpits covered when interacting with Camille's local friends because I know that it really weirds some people out.  I have my own reasons for choosing to have dreadlocks and such, and it's not just to freak people out.  I'm not morally opposed to shaving my legs or pits or wearing make-up, but I find it highly time-consuming, uncomfortable, and rash-inducing, as well as just not being what I'm interested in.

She confessed that she had a secret plan to turn me into a normal mom.  It involved saving up the money from her egg-business and buying me a new wardrobe, a wig that looked like a bun, make-up, shoes, and jewelry.  OK, I could be pretty insulted, but I somehow think it's kind of sweet and amusing.  Interestingly enough, she's not afraid of letting her freak flag fly and dressing like a pirate queen, a boy, or a hippie.

All that being said, what is my responsibility to my child to not being an embarrassing mom (is there such a thing?)?  She knows how I feel about the issue of conformity vs. being yourself, and I'm certainly not about to cut off the dreads or start wearing heels, but could I tie my hair up in a bun when I go to pick her up?  Sure.  Could I wear simple clothes and not African print wrap-around skirts in front of her friends' families?  Why not?  And if she really wants to pick me out some clothes from a thrift store with her own money?  I'll accept it as a gift and not an insult.

I tend to take my kids concerns seriously, even if I disagree with them.  What would you say or do?


  1. i really appreciated this post, and your perspective. i know it's a conversation i likely have coming with my girl especially. she is very much into heels and nail polish and all, and while bellingham is often thought of as a 'hippie town,' i'm definitely the only lady on my street with hairy armits and legs...and i do dress differently than the mainstream. i forget that, as i feel comfortable here, but when i go visit my parents or something it's suddenly very obvious. ;)
    i feel like being true to yourself is an awesome example to set for your girls, one of the best things you can do...and so is listening to them and taking their feelings to heart.

  2. I admire your strength and personal conviction. It's funny because during the 70's that rural town had a "back to the land" hippie population. Heck, there was even a nudist farm just over the hill from's still there, but there is just one family living there. It's hard to be the one against the grain, but you are setting such a powerful example for her. A good example, and not because you're being "different" but because you are staying true to yourself. Could there be anything more that a girl needs to learn in this world? To me, staying true to yourself is the most important lesson in this life. It's too dangerous to always go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. Most of the time they're not even thinking about what they're doing, eating, wearing, etc...and that's dangerous. Dead fish can't swim upstream. You are doing the right thing by letting her freely vent her feelings to you. She'll grow to respect and admire you so much for your values and confidence. I know she will, she's a smart girl.

  3. Thanks for your supportive words, Ladies. I was feeling kind of vulnerable after posting this, but your encouragement means a lot to me :)

  4. What a great post, Nicole. It's interesting because, perhaps it's different with boys. My oldest 3 have never said anything about my appearance (flowy clothes & a nose hoop, etc). When I changed my nose ring from a stud to a hoop, my youngest (8) said "I'm not going to look at you" but by the next day he said "I'm used to you now". I did tell him that I know I look different, & I know I look quite different from others but it's something I want. I love how open you are & that you didn't take it personally but you listened, heard & responded. Great work, mama!


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