Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

And So It Begins

Last year, it was a daily struggle to get my 11 year old son to groom himself. He would blithely saunter out the door with food on his face and his hair in rioutous disarray. If his clothes happened to match, it was simply a happy accident. Shopping was pure, unadulterated torture. When I had to drag him along to try things on, he would quickly settle on the very first thing that fit, and then refuse to try on anything else.

This was both frustrating and freeing.

He would wear what I laid out each evening without question. He never complained about having to wear Target brand clothing. I'm not sure he even noticed. He never expressed any kind of preference, even though his peers were in the beginning stages of brand consciousness, precipitated by the materialism that seems so pervasive here.

Never have I known adults to be so focused on designer fashions and following trends. Who knew the affluent were such lemmings? But I can't think of any other explanation for the proliferation of SUV's (they don't make much sense economically or ecologically, after all) skinny pink cell phones and those ridiculous flippy hair do's.

Anyway...he never asked for the latest thing. He never cared.

This year, everything is different.

This year, suddenly, he is super conscious of looks, brands, trends....cool. And while part of me is happy that he finally cares enought to wipe the milk moustache off his upper lip before leaving the house, this extreme preoccupation with conformity is already driving me somewhat crazy.

Now, don't misunderstand me...I totally get wanting to be cool. I remember the fads that dominated my childhood and how I so longed to be like the other kids. I often wasn't, becase my parents simply couldn't afford Nikes, R.D. Simpson jeans, or genuine leather clogs with a wooden heel. And while I certainly don't want to promote the ideal that what you have and what you wear is more important than who you are, I can empathize with wanting to fit in. Nobody wants to be an outcast. Nobody wants to be the geek, the dork, the spaz, the doofus, the nimrod...or whatever misfits are being called these days.

In so many ways, self-esteem is grounded in these formative years. A kid that constantly finds himself on the outside looking in will eventually begin to believe that he belongs there. And I know from watching my younger sister struggle with feelings of worthlessness and inferiority well into her thirties that such a stigma can plague a person throughout their life.

So I find myself wondering how I can balance his very real need to fit in, with my own need to instill in him a strong sense of self, independant of fashion, fads, and material belongings. How do I make him a leader if I allow him to be a follower? And how do I make the point that there are times that it's okay to follow the crowd, and times that it's essential not to?

I don't have an answer for that.

Husband and I are both pretty self-assured and confident people. I think we tend to lead, rather than follow, in ways that matter. All I can hope is that our children will somehow absorb some of that.

Yesterday Pre-Pubescent One asked me to take him to a popular clothing store. I agreed, with the stipulation that I was not necessarily going to buy him anything should the prices turn out to be more exorbitant than I could afford.

I have to admit, that I enjoyed putting together outfits and basking in his approval at my choices. Until now, my entire brood has been thoroughly averse to shopping of any kind, and I've rarely had either company or an accomplice. It's a small thing, but I remember shopping with my Mom and how much fun we had. It's the kind of purely frivolous fun I never really expected to have with my boys. And it was fun.

When I agreed to purchase a pair of jeans that cost more than I've ever spent on any I've purchased for myself, I felt a little guilty about succumbing to the superficial standards that I've struggled with all my life and perpetuating such a harmful ideal in my son. But I also felt good knowing he would go to school Monday morning and feel cool.

The ear to ear grin on his face was pretty rewarding, but I think I bought those jeans as much for me as for him. I bought those jeans for the little girl who longed for clogs and designer jeans.

We'll work on being a leader some other day.

14 Comments:

  • At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    This hit home. I'm that kid whose parents shopped at Goodwill and always felt inferior and not good enough. Now I'm a mother with plenty of resources wondering how to balance it all - my inner poor girl with not wanting my child to be materialistic with wanting to give him the things I couldn't have, with wanting him to be independent and apart from the crowd - and on and on. When you figure it out, let me know.

     
  • At 10:34 PM, Anonymous mothergoosemouse said…

    I had to giggle because I remember my mother being a tad embarrassed by my penchant for shopping at Goodwill during my punk rock days.

    But I do understand. What I hope to do with my girls - probably not as easy when you've got boys - is to cultivate a sense of style. That is, help them figure out what they like - not necessarily what the crowd likes - and shop accordingly. Sure, there may be special items from special stores for which there's just no viable substitute, but they'll have to pick and choose among those - kind of like how your son chose those special jeans.

     
  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger Mamma said…

    This was a great post!!

    I'm praying that my 10 year old will start to care about how he smells soon!! For all our sake.

    The battle you describe is so true. Now there's a parenting book we really need.

    I want my children to grow up with a strong sense of self and a confidence that who they are is okay--warts included. I always marveled at the kids I knew in school who just naturally had that. Though I think many of us were probably perceived to have this quality even if we really didn't feel that way on the inside.

     
  • At 11:12 PM, Blogger jen said…

    what a great post. it's so less explored, isn't it - the journey of mother, in and through mother, as child grows, and all the peaks and valleys, and all the buttons that get pushed.

    hat's off.

     
  • At 1:50 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Dear B.A.,

    This post struck a nerve with me on so many levels. As a kid I was deeply affected by the desire to be cool. And yet, as one of the kids set aside in the “Gifted” program at my 6th-8th grade middle school I was decidedly and infinitely uncool. My classmates and I had separate classes and even a separate lunch from the rest of the middle school; we struggled enormously to fit in. This had disastrous consequences for some of us.

    For myself, though I came from a strong and loving family, I tried extra hard to fit in by every means necessary. At first I attempted to conform to the latest styles and musical tastes of the day (Umbros shorts and Metallica ICK!). Later, once it was apparent that I was never going to feel accepted I rebelled and went to the opposite extreme and tried my best NOT to fit in, thereby hoping to achieve the ultimate in cool. It wasn’t until after endless heartbreak and conflict with my family that I at last gained the maturity to just be happy being me.

    The reason I am writing this whole speal is because I don’t think a pair of jeans will do much harm or good to your son. What I do think however is that the time you spent hanging out with him and shopping with them for those jeans is where you really are going to make a difference. Just keep showing that boy he is an awesome human being regardless of how well he fits with fickle pop-culture and you will give him the tools to get through it all, eventually. Good Luck!

     
  • At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Jenny said…

    Wow. I feel this post. I was the girl who didn't have winter shoes and now I'm finding myself showering my daughter with beautiful clothes. Did I mention that she's two?

    I need help.

     
  • At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    I go through this as well, mostly with my daughter at 11. But she doesn't pine away for the labels, she merely asks. She wears a combination of designer and Target-wear, which to me means she is somewhat balanced. Honestly, I couldn't have the designer stuff as a kid either. I figure if I can afford to give it to her, and do so because I want to and because she wants it, it will be one less thing she has to deal with in therapy when she is an adult. Truly I have a post brewing about this, because we've had a "situation" recently. I'll buy the duds if I don't think it's outrageous, and sometimes if I do. Being a preteen is hard enough, and if this matters and you can "fix" it, why not? I don't think it means that if your son's friends jump off a bridge that he will follow. It simply means that you want him to be happy, and have the means, in this one case, to make it happen.

    Our lives are so parallel, B.A. You always make me think with your eloquent words.

     
  • At 10:16 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    This is going to be a challenge for us when my daughter gets older. I remember wanting certain things when I was younger that my parents didn't have the money to buy me. Now my husband and I are in a much better place financially than my parents were at this age but that doesn't necessarily mean I should lavish expensive clothes and toys on my kid. That's not going to benefit her in the long run. If you find a solution to this dilema could you let me know?

     
  • At 1:59 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    It's funny. I have been this route with my stepson already and now am bracing for it with my own biological types.

    My two cents - - you buy what you can afford, squeaking in popular items when you can. Individuality, leadership, hearing ones own drum beat - those things can come about no matter what you wear.

    Even if it's trendy.

    Whatever you do, I know it will be best for your guys!

     
  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    I was, and am, a sucker for fashion. Although I am quite aware of the difference in fashion and fads. These days I keep it in check with a few designer pairs of shoes a year and just knowing what looks good on me regardless of the brand. However, when I was young, I didn't have this sense of balance. When I was about 12-13 my parents instituted a clothing allowance. I got $40 a month (which increased with age and inflation) and could either spend it right away or save it for something big. It worked pretty well. I wasn't always in girbauds and guess but I had one or two designer pieces and I always looked nice. Of course my folks helped if I needed something for a special occasion. It taught me a lot about budgeting and about shopping for me and not for the trends.

     
  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger ewe are here said…

    I feel this post. Right now, 90% of the clothes I buy for my boy are second hand or ultra-clearance equivalent. It's just makes so much financial sense to do it this way. But in the back of my mind, I'm acutely aware that I'm only going to be able to get away with this for so long. Because I remember what it was like.

    I went to a private school until I was 14. My parents probably struggled a bit to do it, but the local public school didn't have a gifted program. Almost all the other kids came from wealth. Pure wealth. And although we wore uniforms, shoes were an exception. They just had to be an acceptable color. So, of course the way to show how cool you were was to have the popular shoes of the year. I *always* missed the memo on what those shoes were going to be. I wasn't popular and we didn't have the money they did, so I was always a full year behind in shoe fashions. Which was noted of course by the popular girls.

    Funny how you don't forget these things.

     
  • At 3:50 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    That is a hard one. I wanted them too... they seemed so important then. I guess it's good for him that you remember what it was like... ridiculous or no.

     
  • At 9:39 PM, Blogger MrsFortune said…

    Wow, what a dilemma! I think you probably will manage it better than most parents would because it seems you understand it. I watched this happen to all of my junior high students and it's at once heartbreaking and completely understandable, yet such a pity to see some whose individualism is slowly but surely pilfered from them.

     
  • At 11:38 AM, Blogger Jess Riley said…

    yes, you definitely are an understanding parent. When I wanted "name-brand" clothing in high school I had to pay for it with my own money. And I also had to walk uphill to school both ways, in a blizzard, with broken arms. ;)

     

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