Welcome to the March 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self-Expression and Conformity
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.
It is not my place to tell my daughter how to live her life. Yes, she just turned 4 and yes, I understand that she is not developmentally capable of making sound decisions all of the time. However, it really is not my place to force her to conform to standards that *I* subscribe to so long as they are not causing her or others any harm.
Children are expressive beings. They try on different personas constantly as they grow and develop. They like to change their physical appearance, have control over their actions, and make independent decisions. Every child goes through this. It is a simple part of the developmental process of a human being.
Stifling self-expression seems to be something many parents do, either consciously or subconsciously. At times it may be warranted. After all, you really cannot take a child to the grocery store without clothes on. Child Protective Services would be all over you in a hot minute. But other times, a parent discouraging a child from being who they are in that moment is an act of control, and act of avoidance, an act of discomfort, or an act of fear.
Real life example time. Tiny sometimes likes to be without clothes. When we are at home, I could care less about what she wears or does not wear. If she wants to be naked, so be it. It is Tiny’s house too and it is her decision to wear clothing at home or not.
Rasta Daddy is not comfortable with her nudity. While her ‘tolerates it’ to some degree, he draws the line at meal time nudity. He insists that Tiny wears clothes to the dinner table.
Personally, having a naked wee one next to me while I am eating is not big deal. In fact, I appreciate it as it means one less outfit to launder. (Tiny is known for getting more food on her than in her). But Rasta Daddy insists that it is poor manners to allow Tiny to eat naked. When pressed, all he can come up with as justification is “people don’t eat naked.”
*I* know that Rasta Daddy is simply not comfortable with a nude child, specifically a nude girl. And while he tries other sneaky ways to get her to either remain clothed or put on clothes at other times of the day, he never insists on it. But meal times are a huge issue for him. Although I have tried to help him understand that it really is harmless, he won’t budge. And so, I go against my personal parenting philosophy and encourage Tiny to be clothed when Rasta Daddy is home for dinner. However, I will not be the parent that forces her to get dressed. Rasta Daddy can do that.
Tiny has asked me on numerous occasions why daddy won’t let her be naked. I explain that he prefers to eat dinner with clothed people and that he did not grow up in a family where people ate naked. She understands to a point but I can see he face fall a bit when she puts on clothes for dinner.
Another real life example is Tiny’s current enjoyment of dressing in costume when we go out. She is really big into “parties” and getting fancied up for them. We do not go to a lot of fancy parties mind you. This is just part of her current dramatic play. Since she is with just me 98% of the time we go somewhere, it is almost something I do not even notice. Sometimes there is a ballerina accompanying me. Other times a chicken. Whatever the character de jour, I support Tiny in her clothing and costume choices. I want her to be who she is!
Again, Rasta Daddy is not fully on that train with us. If the costume is low key, like a fancy dress or a tutu, he won’t say much. But the chicken costume and the pumpkin headpiece? No way. That pushed Rasta Daddy outside of his comfort zone. After all, people, strangers, may actually see our daughter dressed like that and wonder what kind of parent he is.
This type of thinking hurts my heart for several reasons. First, he is in effect, telling Tiny NOT to be who she is. He is telling her that she has to dress a certain way to be accepted by strangers. He is telling her that a stranger’s opinion of her carries great weight. And he is telling her that other people dictate how we live our lives in public.
Life is confusing enough for children. There are enough murky waters for them to navigate without us parents mucking them up even more. There is always such a big push for parents to boost their children’s self-esteem but then we go and act like Rasta Daddy in the above mentioned scenarios. From a very early age, we are instilling “people pleasing” behaviors in our children when really, we need to instill self-satisfaction and acceptance in our children.
Do I love going to Farmer’s Market with a chicken? Not always because yes, people do stare and judge. But you know what? 8 out of 10 people get a huge smile on their face. Why? People can see how happy Tiny is, out there being WHO SHE IS and not who I am comfortable with her being. And that is exactly how it should be.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 29 with all the carnival links.)
- No Tattoos! (yet) – Jana Falls at Jananas is okay with tattoos. You just have to wait until you’re 18.
- The Chains of Conformity -Destany at They are All of Me writes about teaching her children to be true to their own authenticity and… screw conformity, it’s for sheep.
- Supporting Self-Expression in Children – At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy encourages her children to be themselves and express themselves accordingly.
- Encouraging Good Examples -Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work encourages her spirited preschooler to choose good examples to copy in order to discourage inappropriate learned behaviors.
- Supporting Your Child’s Self Expression – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she support’s her daughter’s desire to be herself despite objections from Rasta Daddy.
- Can a “good” child be noncompliant? – Lauren at Hobo Mama has a sweet-natured child who is anything but obedient. She likes him just fine, but his grandmother’s not sure what to make of him.
- In Crowd or Outcast, March to Your Own Beat – Jorje of Momma Jorje compares some of the odd fashions of her own youth to some of the crazy stuff kids, and her teen in particular, are doing these
- Their bodies are their own – At Authentic Parenting, Laura questions society’s claims on children.