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Raising Countercultural Kids


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I'm turning into my mother. :) 

 

I was in my early teens when I figured out that my parents were different from the other parents. We didn't have a TV during most of my childhood. After we got a TV, my parents never watched it. My mother was very laissez faire about certain things like what we wore. She let us pick out our own clothes and rarely overrode our choices. 

 

When I got into my teens I began to resent my mother for not teaching me more about clothes and for not making sure that we fit in better. When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that my child would always look right. 

 

I've stopped caring so much about this as my daughter has gotten older. I'm strict about certain things like making sure my daughter wears nice clothes to church. 

 

We don't watch TV. We don't keep up with pop culture. My daughter attended a daddy daughter dance last night and I let her choose her outfit. I suggested a fancy dress but she wanted to wear a casual skirt and shirt. My DH said that the other little girls at the dance were dressed up. 

 

At a Little Flowers meeting (Catholic girl's group), the girls told the group what their favorite movie was. Almost every girl said the Descendants. My daughter said her favorite movie was the Boxcar Children. No one knew what she was talking about. 

 

My daughter is only 8 so she doesn't seem to notice these differences yet. 

 

I feel conflicted about this. On one hand, I want her to be her own person and make her own choices. I don't want her to worry about her appearance or looking like everyone else. But on the other hand, I know that it's hard being different, especially for girls. 

 

Does anyone else worry about this? 

 

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We did lots of things outside the cultural norm, and I did not worry about it.

We are from a different country and speak a different language at home.

We have no TV. We let the kids watch a real movie (no cartoons) on weekend nights only.

We eat differently: our main cooked meal is lunch, we always eat seated at a set table, we don't drink soda at home, we don't eat fast food.

We do not adhere to the majority religion.

We homeschool.

We give our kids lots more freedoms than their friends' parents give them, but we are way more rigorous about school work.

I never policed by kids attire; they always chose what to wear. DS hates jeans and never wears them.  DD dresses nicely, but does not care about fashion. I wear no makeup; DD wears some (I never policed that either). Clothes are way overrated in this society; it is much more important to be dressed for weather and activity than to be fashionable.

As they became older, they had the freedom to explore pop culture, had free computer access, had no curfews. They are doing just fine navigating  the world. They hold their own, have their principles, and are not easily swayed to follow group pressure.

Homeschooling makes that possible. Public middle  school and junior high are hell for a person outside the mainstream culture.

 

 

 

Edited by regentrude
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OP, you sound a lot like me. I was raised differently from the people around me and I was treated differently by the other kids because of it, too.  I pretty much never was wearing the appropriate thing and it caused difficulties, but my mom didn't know (or care) about hair and fashion so she couldn't help.  I wasn't mad at her about it, but I do look back and wish I'd had some guidance.  

 

I have let the boys be their own people.  I've always let them wear what they want.  We don't follow the crowd unless we really like where the crowd is going.  We are content to do our own thing.  

 

And I'm ok with all of that...except for some issues with the clothes.  

 

Until a few years ago, I just let them wear what they liked.  They liked to wear the exact same outfit to church every week--not a matching outfit, but each boy would only wear the same shirt and pair of pants as his "church clothes."  A close friend of mine finally pulled me aside and told me that some of the other kids were starting to be funny about my kids wearing the same clothes every week.  I really hope that my sons were oblivious to it.  My friend knew about it because she has daughters who are friends with my boys who had noticed it and told her about it. 

 

I decided at that point to have a bit more of a say in what they wore.  Not to squelch them, but to guide them on what's appropriate clothing for the event.  We're not so poor that we can't afford  a few different outfits for church, so I gently took the boys shopping (never telling them that people had noticed their clothes) for a few more church things so that their peers wouldn't get funny around them for wearing the same outfit week after week after week.

 

I did tell my ds15 when he wanted to wear his Doctor Who jacket to his youth group on Wednesday night (this one--you really have to see it to understand why I talked to him about it--it's a crazy costume, just crazy), that he did run the risk of some of the kids being mean about it.  I told him that people don't always understand when someone is different and they'll get embarrassed by it and avoid you if you are too different.  (or something or other...I was much more eloquent about it then than I'm being now.)  

 

I told him that if he did wear it, he could always take it off if the kids at youth (about 30-40 kids attend) acted funny about it or gave him a hard time.

 

Well, good on his friends and the other kids at youth: he wore it and they all said, "That's cool," and treated him the same as always.  However, I do not let him wear it to Sunday morning church and he even realizes that would be over the top.  

 

So, I feel like I'm letting them do what they want...but I do try to give them direction along the way.  Or, as with my son and his Doctor Who jacket, I tell him the possible consequences and let him decide.  

 

He does wear the entire costume (and not just the jacket) when he has friends over to watch Doctor Who.  And since we're a bit nerdy, we will be going to the Doctor Who convention this year and he'll be wearing the costume while we're there.  But he'll fit in with all the others at the con.  :)

 

 

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I think we need teach children the basic customs and manners of where they live. They *should* know that some kind of clothing is more appropriate for *this* kind of event and that kind of clothing is appropriate for *that* kind of event (and yes, knowing what to wear is a thing). They *should* know good table manners, and how to introduce their mothers to their friends.  IOW, it is possible for your daughter to be her own person while still knowing how to behave in polite society.

 

But they don't need to be up on all the social media stuff. I think it's great that your dd loves the Boxcar Children and doesn't know what the Descendants is (funny you should mention that; I heard about it for the very first time yesterday).

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Well, perhaps I should google the Descendants before replying, but I'm not going to.

I was raised...differently...than others in my small town. I never knew what they popular movies/music/actors etc...were. Heck, most of the time I'd never heard of them. My mom doesn't know or care about fashion, hair, or make-up. Frankly, it's so bad that even as adult that it sometimes still embarrasses me to be seen in public with her. All of that combined made for an interesting childhood.

As a kid, I hated it. I wanted to be aware of pop culture to help me relate to peers. I wanted someone to teach me social skills (well, I would have had I realized I needed it so desperately). I wish I'd had someone to teach me the basics about fashion.

And yet, now I have four kids. We don't have a TV. We have goats and chickens. We live in a former barn.  So I must believe there is at least some good to come from being non-mainstream. But I do wonder about this, just like you, OP.  Our oldest will be 8 in a few months. He is the oblivious type. I struggle to know when to try and clue him in and when to let things go.

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My DD5 just wants to run and play. She is blissfully unaware.

 

We don't have cable or regular tv. We stream via internet and borrow dvds from library. Her thing's are monitor by us plus Dad and I don't watch grown up shows tell she is asleep.

 

She is independent and has very strong opinions especially about her clothes. As long as it is appropriate for location and weather,fine. Buying clothes must be approved by parents. Some little girls clothes are sooooo inappropriate. NO WAY!!!

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I was raised very differently from the norm, also. My parents never took me to any movie. Other things. My parents are fairly oblivious to pop culture. I know what it's like to be in a room full of kids and be the only one who has no idea what they are talking about because I'm just oblivious. And too young and lacking the social skills to steer the conversation into something I find interesting. So my kids see the new movies, as well as the old, just enough to participate. I guide them in clothing choices. I'm thankful for a dear friend who takes her kids to all the movies and includes mine. I try to toe a fine line. I want them to be individuals, but I also want them to fit in somewhat. So when my dd, for example, said she wanted to be a princess for Halloween, I said fine, but I wasn't buying a Disney princess costume. I did, however, as she has gotten older and I have gotten tired, buy some sort of descendents costume last year. I have three, 8, 11, and 2. I was very gung ho with the first but the two year old is watching Thomas the tank engine right now ;). I say that to tell you I understand. I wish I could be more strident with all of them, but mama is tired!

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I never worried about pop culture (there's a lot of junk out there!). I'd much rather have an 8 yo prefer The Boxcar Children movie. They learn enough about pop culture as they get into the teen years and on. My kids have both told me they thought it was good to focus more on imagination and not let hours of their childhood be spent on electronics. (My dd would have loved your dd, because she spent a good portion of her growing up years in the back yard, pretending she was one of The Boxcar Children! She read those books over and over.)

 

We don't try to have the trendiest clothes, but did try to dress for the occasion. Most of the time, my kids probably fit into the "middle of the pack" so to speak with regard to fashion. (Well, DD now as a young adult can be trendy at times, but she does that with her money!) Honestly though, if kids want to find something to make fun of, they will. It doesn't have to be clothes. I wouldn't be oblivious to give them a reason, but neither would I spend a lot of money hoping to "fit in." 

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I also lean towards individuality and limit access to mainstream 'pop' culture. My daughter is an 8 yr old 3rd grader in public school so there's only so much 'sheltering' I can do. I like to walk the middle line and lightly expose her to what she finds out on the playground just so she's gaining street wisdom--this will expand as she develops. However, the currebt bulk of family life focuses on values, character development, education and deciphering what daily life entails.

Edited by Earthmerlin
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OP, you sound a lot like me. I was raised differently from the people around me and I was treated differently by the other kids because of it, too. I pretty much never was wearing the appropriate thing and it caused difficulties, but my mom didn't know (or care) about hair and fashion so she couldn't help. I wasn't mad at her about it, but I do look back and wish I'd had some guidance.

 

I have let the boys be their own people. I've always let them wear what they want. We don't follow the crowd unless we really like where the crowd is going. We are content to do our own thing.

 

And I'm ok with all of that...except for some issues with the clothes.

 

Until a few years ago, I just let them wear what they liked. They liked to wear the exact same outfit to church every week--not a matching outfit, but each boy would only wear the same shirt and pair of pants as his "church clothes." A close friend of mine finally pulled me aside and told me that some of the other kids were starting to be funny about my kids wearing the same clothes every week. I really hope that my sons were oblivious to it. My friend knew about it because she has daughters who are friends with my boys who had noticed it and told her about it.

 

I decided at that point to have a bit more of a say in what they wore. Not to squelch them, but to guide them on what's appropriate clothing for the event. We're not so poor that we can't afford a few different outfits for church, so I gently took the boys shopping (never telling them that people had noticed their clothes) for a few more church things so that their peers wouldn't get funny around them for wearing the same outfit week after week after week.

 

I did tell my ds15 when he wanted to wear his Doctor Who jacket to his youth group on Wednesday night (this one--you really have to see it to understand why I talked to him about it--it's a crazy costume, just crazy), that he did run the risk of some of the kids being mean about it. I told him that people don't always understand when someone is different and they'll get embarrassed by it and avoid you if you are too different. (or something or other...I was much more eloquent about it then than I'm being now.)

 

I told him that if he did wear it, he could always take it off if the kids at youth (about 30-40 kids attend) acted funny about it or gave him a hard time.

 

Well, good on his friends and the other kids at youth: he wore it and they all said, "That's cool," and treated him the same as always. However, I do not let him wear it to Sunday morning church and he even realizes that would be over the top.

 

So, I feel like I'm letting them do what they want...but I do try to give them direction along the way. Or, as with my son and his Doctor Who jacket, I tell him the possible consequences and let him decide.

 

He does wear the entire costume (and not just the jacket) when he has friends over to watch Doctor Who. And since we're a bit nerdy, we will be going to the Doctor Who convention this year and he'll be wearing the costume while we're there. But he'll fit in with all the others at the con. :)

I had to chuckle at this because my 6 year old wears a fez and bowtie to our umbrella school all the time and he is so not concerned at all if people question it. He just says "bowties are cool"

 

We are next to no tech, tv only on weekends, and our kids are fairly bubbled. Not that we bubble them, pop culture trends just run off them like teflon. They like what they like. My older two were like this too. They were their own people and just paid not attention to pop culture. One son was a bit of a geeky artist who was well liked. My other son has model good looks so nothing he did was ever looked at as odd by anybody. He seemed to be charmed socially but never fell victim to peer pressure.

 

I think the real trick is solid home where they are unconditionally loved and can always be themselves. It seems to be a buffer.

 

She isn't missing much by not watching the Descendents. Boxcar Children are way better ;)

Edited by nixpix5
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Just for those whose moms didn’t guide them enough.

 

my dd has zip hair style. Zip clothing style. Too short, too old, too worn clothes. Doesn’t care as long as it’s comfortable. She has cute stuff, and things that fit. Acne that could be better managed. Doesn’t care. I’ve bought the stuff, showed her what to do. She gets mad and very annoyed. She was mad when I took her to get a hair trim today. So mostly let her be. Otherwise, it’s like I don’t accept her as is. And I wonder if someday she’ll think I should have done more 😂. She’s a sweet kid, but fitting in is not on her radar.

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I grew up no TV movies weird clothes etc. mostly due to religious biases. I've made sure my kids have more access to that stuff because primary school was difficult. It's hard to play with kids when the games are based on shows you've never watched. However my kids are non conformists as well. I think homeschooling makes a world of difference in making it ok not to have to conform.

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My kids have a lot of access to pop culture and are both aware somewhat of fashion trends. However they still both have a very strong sense of self and have no problem bucking convention either.

 

I always tell them to embrace a trend they like and ignore the ones the don't. Sometimes they are the ones starting trends. I don't think access to pop culture necessarily makes you conventional. I have one that thrives on being different. Sometimes I think 'being different' can be a mask too, and I have to remind her it is actually ok to like a trend or something other people like. It is really about deciding for yourself and not letting others define you.

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I don’t even know what the Descendants are.

 

But kids of all generations have books or stories directed at them. ( Well, at least starting in the 18th century’). We can show some discernment in what media our kids watch but we don’t have to stick to the 18th century. Not all “twaddle†is bad, in my opinion. I like my own twaddle on occasion- it’s fun and relaxing.

 

Most kids I know talk about what they like because... well, don’t we all? They don’t use it as a way to exclude people on purpose. At least not the kids I know. But I know a lot of good kids, both homeschooled and public schooled. And we’ve never thought that we were somehow better than others simply by doing things that were best for our particular family.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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My son went through a stage where he wore a pinstriped fedora everywhere.  Then he went through a stage where he wore fingerless gloves a lot.   He hasn't worn matching socks since he was old enough to put them on himself.   He lives in sweatpants and shirts with puns on them or video game characters. 

 

Dd has been wearing white leggings painted to look like an animatronic (from her Halloween costume).  Sometimes she wears the shirt as well.  

 

So, I guess we just let them make decisions about this stuff.  They have no interest in going to movies and don't watch tv.  But, they can talk endlessly about the popular video games, Pokemon, Minecraft and FNAF.   Ds especially is pretty quirky even outside of his choices in attire but his friends are pretty accepting.  As others have said, the mean kids will always manage to find something to be mean about.

 

I was also the kid who didn't have a tv so didn't know the latest shows, didn't know how to do the latest hairstyle (I am a little bitter - I actually have the perfect hair for feathered hairstyles but didn't know it at the time it would have mattered  :glare: ), never wore makeup, and had the wrong clothes.   Those things don't seem to matter to my kids at all, and I assume a large part of that is because they are homeschooled.  

 

ETA:  What I mean is that, for my kids, if they were in public school they would probably be more aware of the popular shows/movies/etc. and interested in watching/wearing/knowing about them.  They aren't interested at least partially because they aren't aware.

Edited by Where's Toto?
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I grew up in a very culturally appropriate home, so I always fit in nicely.  But, everyone had black and white tv's then, no one had designer clothes yet, and the cultural norm seemed a lot simpler.

 

When designer clothes and the preppy look became a thing, I didn't like it at all and wanted to wear a hippie look instead.   :)  That kind of began my desire to go anti-culture (in some ways).  My dh had the same ideas, and although we weren't complete oddballs, we did try and raise our children to at least question why they were doing something, and did some things out of the box.  We were one of the few families that had only one TV channel (that we rarely watched), that chose not to have AC, that didn't have smartphones, that enjoyed old black and white movies best, and that spent our money on cheap traveling instead of many activities and clubs.  And we homeschooled!  We were the only Democrats at our local church, and my older kids voted for Ralph Nader in our conservative homeschool group's mock election.  :)

 

But we weren't snooty about it, and eventually our kids did latch on to some more culturally popular ideas and that was just fine with us.  I'd say they grew up with a sense of feeling like it's okay to do things differently, and to question what's popular before jumping on board.

 

I think for the most part that has been very good.  They are all unique, and feeling comfortable with nontraditional choices has opened doors to them that they otherwise might not have seen.

 

At the same time, I think they also recognize that they felt like they never quite fit in growing up and there was some awkwardness in that, and for a couple -- maybe a little regret.  So there's that too.

 

I think they will probably all raise their children -- if they have any -- the way that they were raised, for the most part.  Though a couple may have minor regrets, I think they realize that there's no easy answer.  When choosing one path, you are giving up another -- and that other one might also be a good one.  But you can't always have everything.  You have to weigh it all.

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Just be yourself and let your daughter be herself. It doesn’t make you worse or better than anyone else.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

Oh, I like this.

 

(I grew up in a home where, I'm afraid, the negatives of their judgmental attitudes towards others sometimes outweighed the positives of my parents' countercultural stances on things like media and consumption in general.)

 

Ultimately, the more you feel judged-- whether by the people who think you should love a certain movie and dress a certain way or by the people who think you should not-- the harder it is to know what it even means to "be yourself."

 

The one thing I do consider with respect to myself and my children is that we should participate enough in the world to be able to have conversations with all kinds of people. That doesn't require participating in pop culture, but it means being aware of what's going on outside of our offbeat little bubble. It means not lumping all pop culture together and dismissing it summarily. Teaching my kids to be thoughtful consumers means talking about it and thinking about it, and this has been particularly hard for me because I had absolutely no model of what it might look like to be a parent and say, "Hey, you finally watched that movie everyone was talking about! What's your opinion?" We don't have to expose them to everything, but that's different from sheltering them and refusing to admit they might have their own opinions-- and yes, they might even care what their peers think, and shouldn't be shamed for it!-- or allow them to express those opinions to us.

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Dh and I have raised a TCK, which is about as counterculture as you can get.  :laugh: He's all his own person.  He is still finding out things he missed, but wouldn't have given up his experiences to have the ones his friends did.

 

But it does come down to what Jean and Fralala have stated: just be your own person and respect your kids as being individuals, too.  My youngest has this thing with wanting to wear dress shirts and slacks.  We do force a dress code on him of 'right clothes for the right activity'.  And this sometimes means telling him, "Sorry, kid, you can't wear business attire to gym class."  :lol: We use our family values to look at ratings and appropriate shows, but within those ds is welcome to pick whatever he likes (and he adores Descendants 1&2, but Zombies is mostly a bad musical cheer movie).  Same with music, activities, etc. 

 

If I wanted my kids to be me I could have cloned myself.  I'd rather not.  Giving them the opportunities to be individuals within the realm of what our family feels safe and appropriate for each age is better for us as a whole.

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My kids are pretty up to date with pop stuff - if you're talking about the late 90s... and more grunge/alternative than pop :rofl:

 

J/k

My kids are different and have lots of different friends. I actually think it's a big positive of homeschooling, they see some really different people/families with different standards/styles/values and it's all fine! They tend to see differences with kind curiosity - like the time my oldest son thoughtfully said to our doctor 'your skin is black!' (cue me wishing the earth would swallow me up) followed by 'I have a black spot too!' - pointing at his freckles lol.

 

My 7 year old son - a very rough and tumble boy - is keeping grasshoppers and made himself a fairy wand yesterday lol. Adorable.

 

They're all different, let them be. Except I do talk about dressing appropriately for the occasion - I just today told my 12 year old that frayed denim short shorts are not appropriate for church! I do make them fix their hair before visiting grandma, otherwise I get nagged lol.

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I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this..but I think it’s almost as easy to fall into the trap of trying to fit into a subcultural countercultural norm as it is to fit into the broader cultural norm. I’m not saying the OP is saying this but I find sometimes the pressure in homeschooling circles to be “countercultural†becomes almost as strong as any pressure I feel in other circles to let my kids watch or participate in pop culture. Not knowing pop cultural references can almost become a sense of pride in some circles. 

 

I think it’s just as important to allow kids to be their own persons when part of that is wanting to “fit in†as it is to allow them to be “weirdâ€. My daughter is more concerned with fitting in than my boys. And I think that’s ok. I think it’s just as ok that she wants to wear clothes like other girls have as it is that my middle son wants to wear goofy socks so that he always stands out and that my oldest pretty much only wears grey and black or blue because he’s super boring. :)

 

My daughter did love the Descendants, it’s a fun movie. :)

Edited by Alice
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Well homeschooling is a counter cultural choice so there is no avoiding that.

 

I was raised in a diverse city by parents who had lived--and met--overseas. One had a poor blue collar background, Catholic Jesuit schooling, one wealthy NJ suburbs upbringing. I went to schools where I was the minority as a white student. When I went to college I felt very different until I found my people. I still don't "fit in" to the wealthy suburban culture where I live. But I have lots if friends and am comfortable with my differentness. I value what my overseas and diverse upbringing gave me.

 

For me, it is important to educate my kids about appropriate clothes for the occasion. I give them s lot of choice overall. I often cringed at my first dd's clothing choice--but now she dresses well. Same with my second. He also needed help with grooming for awhile. I do insist on brushed hair when we leave the house and regular showers. I often wish I could have dressed my girls with bows and cute outfits--but respecting their personhood is more important. I agree with what someone upthread said about following the trends is ok but should be seen as a choice.

 

While we don't embrace the pop culture here, I do think that being attuned to the general topics of interest in the available social group is important. To be a family who proudly shuns Marvel movies may be a silly hill to die on if your child has nothing to discuss with his friends. Find something they can share (for my kids it is Marvel movies they share, but Dr Who is their own interest not shared by the common group. Ds's bff likes Sherlock, which ds isn't interested in. Sometimes they watch each other's show to be good friends).

 

So, I say, relax. It is okay to raise your children counterculural but do be attuned to places where you can flex so they have something to talk about.

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Also, to be fair, when one of mine, who gets super passionate about his interests, began to be interested in something I knew his friend group wouldn't like I did counsel him about it. I told him that it was unlikely they would join him in this interest and if he chose to pursue it that was totally fine, but that it would be unfair to use it as a yardstick of someone's loyalty as a friend.

 

So, I guess I believe that it is best to help children see the pros and cons of their choices socially. I would rather do that than have them blindsided or laughed at (I would have handled the Dr Who jacket just as Garga did.). But I am careful to communicate love regardless of choice.

 

What people with the parents who didn't care about dress, etc. lacked, imho, was the knowledge of what would have been acceptable. It's a different thing feeling ignorant than making a choice.

Edited by freesia
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I'm turning into my mother. :)

 

I was in my early teens when I figured out that my parents were different from the other parents. We didn't have a TV during most of my childhood. After we got a TV, my parents never watched it. My mother was very laissez faire about certain things like what we wore. She let us pick out our own clothes and rarely overrode our choices. 

 

When I got into my teens I began to resent my mother for not teaching me more about clothes and for not making sure that we fit in better. When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that my child would always look right. 

 

I've stopped caring so much about this as my daughter has gotten older. I'm strict about certain things like making sure my daughter wears nice clothes to church. 

 

We don't watch TV. We don't keep up with pop culture. My daughter attended a daddy daughter dance last night and I let her choose her outfit. I suggested a fancy dress but she wanted to wear a casual skirt and shirt. My DH said that the other little girls at the dance were dressed up. 

 

At a Little Flowers meeting (Catholic girl's group), the girls told the group what their favorite movie was. Almost every girl said the Descendants. My daughter said her favorite movie was the Boxcar Children. No one knew what she was talking about. 

 

My daughter is only 8 so she doesn't seem to notice these differences yet. 

 

I feel conflicted about this. On one hand, I want her to be her own person and make her own choices. I don't want her to worry about her appearance or looking like everyone else. But on the other hand, I know that it's hard being different, especially for girls. 

 

Does anyone else worry about this? 

 

Your perspective as an adult is different to mine. 

 

I'm so grateful to my mother for letting us, even making us be different. I'm grateful for her letting me try out horrible haircuts, and I'm grateful I was a nerd and never tempted to go to keggers in the woods, or to spend hours on makeup (what a horrible waste of time!). I was a fedora-wearing, trenchcoat-weating, gloves-with-no-fingers wearing girl.  :o  

 

Yes, she made me wear appropriate clothing, like I had to dress for formals, and for sports, but beyond that, provided I was clean and decent (meaning, respecting the dress codes of society, not hard in SoCal or the PNW), she did not care.

 

I often wonder how much gender dysphoria I would have felt, if I had not been in a feminist sub-culture at home, if I couldn't try on different personalities and be myself. My real self. All that was, to my mom, perfectly acceptable for a girl. She knew I wouldn't be cool but she thought it was better to be me than to be cool. I don't resent her for it. It's the #1 thing I admire about her.

 

My big fear is living in such a fancy area now, that there's more pressure on my kids to fit in than there was for me. Luckily there are still enough freaks and geeks around the Seattle area that you're never really alone in old jeans, dirty snow boots, a trenchcoat and a tee-shirt with the name of your favorite Federalist on it.

 

Also... my littlest heard about Boxcar from a friend (more conservative than us). She said, "Mom. How come nobody ever told me about this series?!?" She has read the whole thing now. So, keep up the fight. Good people will be grateful for new perspectives.

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I did tell my ds15 when he wanted to wear his Doctor Who jacket to his youth group on Wednesday night (this one--you really have to see it to understand why I talked to him about it--it's a crazy costume, just crazy), that he did run the risk of some of the kids being mean about it.  I told him that people don't always understand when someone is different and they'll get embarrassed by it and avoid you if you are too different.  (or something or other...I was much more eloquent about it then than I'm being now.) 

 

At a church youth group, the kids would make fun of what one kid wears?

 

Is that common?

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At a church youth group, the kids would make fun of what one kid wears?

 

Is that common?

 

 

I have no idea if it's common.  The youth group kids didn't make fun of him, and I didn't really expect them to make overt fun.  

 

However, when I was a nerdy kid and went to my friend's youth group, they were distantly polite to me.  I was dressed weird and acted super shy and they weren't overtly mean to me, but they also didn't connect to me.  And honestly, at this stage in life, I look back and don't fault them.  It would have taken a great deal of maturity to approach the very strange looking girl and forced a way to connect with her, because I was so shy and strange and didn't know how to connect back to other people.  

 

So, I look back at my own childhood being nerdy and wearing odd clothes and having rat's nest hair and see how very hard it was for the people around me to know how to connect to me.  And so I do tell my 15 yo son that when he wears what is the equivalent to a clown jacket to youth, the kids honestly might not know what to make of it.  Some of them will feel embarrassed or strange about it and won't know how to interact with him.

 

Did you see the jacket he wore?  It wasn't one of the cool fedoras of the current Doctor Who or the cool coats of the current doctors.  It is a literal clown suit.  The costume designer who worked for the BBC and was assigned to create a costume for the next Doctor made the clown costume as a joke, but it backfired when then the person in charge at the BBC thought it was great and made the actor wear it, though the actor hated it.

 

So yeah, part of me worried that kids, even in youth, might get weirded out by the kid showing up in a clown suit.  Here it is again.  Kids that age want to fit in and sometimes worry that if they hang out with someone who doesn't look like the rest of them, that they'll look like they don't fit in by association.  

 

I know these things can be true, because it was my life from age 10-25.  I did not fit in and a lot of it was my shyness, my clothing, and my hair.  And even into my mid-twenties, it wasn't really choice.  It was ignorance. 

 

I want to repeat--for me, it was ignorance.  This is the crux of how I feel about this issue.

 

So, I want to make sure that my sons are choosing the way they look and it's not that they don't have a choice or that they're ignorant of basic human nature or social norms in regards to clothing and hair.

 

But to answer your question, they did not make fun of him and they didn't say anything mean to him.  I didn't expect that they would be overtly mean.  I did warn him that some of the kids might avoid him if he was looking too over-the-top and that it would be subtle.  He's not an 8 yo like the OP. He's 15 and interested in attracting a girlfriend eventually.  It's not like he's a little kid.  He's taller than me with a mustache.  I feel it's important to help him know when he might be making people uncomfortable when he's wearing a clown suit to youth group.

 

 

He took what I said in stride and wore it a few months ago.

 

And, this thread is very current for us, because last Wednesday, he wore it again.  And this time, I didn't say a word because I know it's not ignorance on his part, but is choice and I'm 100% ok with that.  He is sending a message to everyone that this is who he is and he's comfortable being this person, and I love it.  I love it that he has the confidence.  But it's his choice and not ignorance.  And that makes all the difference.

Edited by Garga
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Thank you for your comments in this thread.  I have read them ALL -- this interests me.  I have thought and studied about this a lot over the years, and I'm still learning about it.

 

I used to think it was my JOB to raise my kids to know what was appropriate, and what was fashionable, so they could avoid the pain of "mean girls" and their ilk.  Among other things.  You know what it says in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."  Then my kids started turning into teen-agers, and all my precious theories about how to be the best parent in the world failed miserably and had to be rewritten almost from scratch.  Reality hits you hard, bro.

 

My current theory is that it isn't my job to push my values onto my children.  That sometimes works for some children but I believe it isn't healthy for them.  It is my job to find out what the values of my children are.  What brings joy to their souls, and what do they fear?  What motivates them and what couldn't they really care less about?  What are their big red buttons, and what kinds of things would be damaging to their fragile self-worths?  Then I have a better idea how to guide them through the mine field of puberty and get them to concentrate on things that are important to THEM.

 

DS1 is a brilliant thinker.  He learns things, analyzes them, and implements them in his work so fast it amazes me.  He recently graduated college in Music Education, and completed his student teaching at the local high school.  Watching him teach vocal technique is just fun.  He is really good at it.  His students are lucky to have him as their teacher.  But he is a little bit socially backward.  Even his students razz him sometimes for his lack of fashion sense.  He has always been that way.  When he was younger we tried to get him interested in learning how to be fashionable, but it never took.  And even now, he just blows it off.  It is just not important to him.

 

DS5, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite.  He is NOT a brilliant thinker, in any sense of the word.  He is a talker.  He has an inherent need to win, and to be the best.  And it is extremely important to him that people look at him and think he's cool.  He works out several times a week, posts pictures of his flexing muscles on FaceBook, and spends unholy amounts of money (which he earns himself!) on clothes and shoes.  And way too much time in front of the mirror fixing his hair.  Frankly, he never needed much fashion guidance from us--I am the one asking HIM what is cool to wear.

 

That comment about way too much time in front of the mirror is totally from my perspective.  It would be too much for me, but not for him.  I have learned that it is important to him, so I encourage it.  I would never spend my money and time the way he does.  It would be totally wasted for me.  But it is important for him.  He asked me if he should cancel his gym membership because it was expensive.  Money is also a very big deal to him.  I told him working out (and the effects on his body) is something that brings joy to his soul.  When you find something that brings joy to your soul, DO THAT!  And not just when it's convenient.  Take the time, spend the money, make the effort to do it often.

 

So yeah, I worry about it same as you.  My opinion is: it depends on the kid.  It ALL depends on the kid.

Edited by HalfABrain
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I talk to my daughter a lot about code switching and the masks we wear. 

 

I make sure they don't fuse to her face.

 

This.

 

One of the troubles I see for kids who are outside the mainstream - either by parents raising them differently or just by being different on their own - is that they sometimes struggle to put on any other masks, so to speak. In the group where no one knows their favorite movie, they just don't talk to anyone or make any friends. And then they're lonely and unhappy. 

 

It's good to be yourself. But it's also good to have friends. Ideally these two come together just right. But for kids not in the mainstream... I've seen them be a challenge sometimes.

 

In these situations, I want my kids to know it's okay to put on another mask. We all wear masks out in the world and present ourselves certain ways. No one is completely themselves and up front right at the start. You don't have to be the same in a classroom vs. on the playground, vs. at a scouting group, just like your parents don't have to be just the same in an office vs. at church vs. at a mom's group.

 

The challenge is to switch your masks, be comfortable with them, but, as Rosie said, not let them fuse to your face. To know when to take them off, how to take them off with your closest friends and family. And to not be so overwhelmed by the group that you lose yourself or your morals.

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And, this thread is very current for us, because last Wednesday, he wore it again.  And this time, I didn't say a word because I know it's not ignorance on his part, but is choice and I'm 100% ok with that.  He is sending a message to everyone that this is who he is and he's comfortable being this person, and I love it.  I love it that he has the confidence.  But it's his choice and not ignorance.  And that makes all the difference.

 

I am glad I came back to this post and saw this. This is the essence of what I was trying to get at with my childhood. I was a child who wanted to connect with peers in some way, whether that be fashion or music or movies or (fill in your own option). But I didn't have access to those, whether that was due to my parent's choice or ignorance.

 

Thank you for putting it so well.

 

OP, I hope the posts here are helping you. They've certainly helped me!

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I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this..but I think it’s almost as easy to fall into the trap of trying to fit into a subcultural countercultural norm as it is to fit into the broader cultural norm. I’m not saying the OP is saying this but I find sometimes the pressure in homeschooling circles to be “countercultural†becomes almost as strong as any pressure I feel in other circles to let my kids watch or participate in pop culture. Not knowing pop cultural references can almost become a sense of pride in some circles. 

 

 

 

I know exactly what you mean. I've always felt like there can be a lot of judgment in church or in other kinds of 'crunchy' groups. I'm not a homeschooler now for various, mostly financial. But one reason that I am not HSing now is that I'm afraid that we would not find our niche. I got lectured by someone at church for letting my daughter watch Sofia the First because it has magic which makes it "evil." 

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I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this..but I think it’s almost as easy to fall into the trap of trying to fit into a subcultural countercultural norm as it is to fit into the broader cultural norm. I’m not saying the OP is saying this but I find sometimes the pressure in homeschooling circles to be “countercultural†becomes almost as strong as any pressure I feel in other circles to let my kids watch or participate in pop culture. Not knowing pop cultural references can almost become a sense of pride in some circles.

 

I think it’s just as important to allow kids to be their own persons when part of that is wanting to “fit in†as it is to allow them to be “weirdâ€. My daughter is more concerned with fitting in than my boys. And I think that’s ok. I think it’s just as ok that she wants to wear clothes like other girls have as it is that my middle son wants to wear goofy socks so that he always stands out and that my oldest pretty much only wears grey and black or blue because he’s super boring. :)

 

My daughter did love the Descendants, it’s a fun movie. :)

Soo true!

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Btw my kids have never seen Descendants but loved the Boxcar Kids movie.

Mine as well, LOVED box car children movie, clueless about Disney Channel and Nickelodeon type entertainment. Although middle dd is full time public school right now (we moved to a new state and a smaller city - 30k - and public was a way to meet people for this socially insatiable kid), and the culture crap is creeping in. She now knows about Descendants and a lot of other pop stuff. She ask incessantly for a smart phone (not going to happen), and has begun to act the part of the ditsy girl (she's gifted, and way ahead in school). 😒 Next year begins middle school and I'm really thinking about bringing her back home, though it will be a battle for a while I know.

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OP, you sound very much like me. The social life in my area revolves around the school, so homeschooling already sets us apart. We don't have cable and our TVs are at least 15 years old. We are blissfully unaware of the teen bands and Nickelodeon and Disney shows and much of the culture stuff. I had to go look up The Descendants before I replied! We don't have a gaming console or iPads. My 15 year old has never had a phone. He doesn't like sports and has unconventional interests rarely shared by teens his age, so he often hangs out with older men who share his interests. My 11 year old daughter is very interested in fashion and hair styles and I'm not, so I let her pick out her clothes and style her hair how she wants. She's very social and really wants to fit in and I do have to sometimes clue her in to things, but she seems to get along well in every activity she attends.

 

Our counterculturalism has nothing to do with trying to fit into any homeschooling community. We rarely do anything with other homeschoolers anyway. My older kids went to public school and we lived a similar lifestyle then. They have turned into amazing and successful adults and I don't think letting us all be ourselves has been such a bad choice in the long run.

 

 

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I was raised sheltered from most of pop culture and Dh was too. Dh is pretty adamant that our kids have access to pop culture knowledge. If they aren’t interested that is fine, but he really felt different from his peers growing up. I did too, to an extent. Like a pp said, I was ignorant about things-it wasn’t like I made a choice to be counter cultural.

 

I don’t wish I would have spent hours reading teen magazines and putting on makeup, but maybe having some knowledge about something trendy would have been nice.

 

My oldest likes sports, but we never had cable, so he didn’t know what sportscenter was and kids on his sports teams would reference it. We showed him episodes so he would know. He isn’t really an NBA fan, but he has learned enough to get by in brief conversations about it with his friends (He knows Steph Curry and Lebron James). I wouldn’t want him spending hours immersed in NBA if he isn’t interested in it, but knowing enough so he isn’t left out when his friends talk about it makes him more comfortable and that is a good thing.

 

One thing I struggle with is my 2nd ds loves name brand clothes. I really resisted him becoming a walking billboard, but that is how he wants to dress. I think it is important for kids to feel comfortable with how they look so I let it go.

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I think that you and I, Tsuga, live in a more eclectic area than some. Sure, there are mean kids but mean kids would be mean even if you did everything the same as they did.

Yes, though frankly growing up I thought of this area as just one step up from LA culturally speaking.

 

I am not sure what the next part is getting at. Yes, mean people exist everywhere.

 

But adults can stop it. Adults and other kids. Sure there could be one mean kid but are we saying this kid's church group would be so overwhelmingly composed of bullies that you couldn't count on your friends?

 

We had one guy that was always putting his foot in his mouth. And he would always be rebuked by the group. "Dude, you're one to talk!" And he would apologize.

 

I mean. We were Christians. You want Lord of the Flies teen social interaction join the cheer team. That's mainly what threw me off.

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I have no idea if it's common. The youth group kids didn't make fun of him, and I didn't really expect them to make overt fun.

 

However, when I was a nerdy kid and went to my friend's youth group, they were distantly polite to me. I was dressed weird and acted super shy and they weren't overtly mean to me, but they also didn't connect to me. And honestly, at this stage in life, I look back and don't fault them. It would have taken a great deal of maturity to approach the very strange looking girl and forced a way to connect with her, because I was so shy and strange and didn't know how to connect back to other people.

 

So, I look back at my own childhood being nerdy and wearing odd clothes and having rat's nest hair and see how very hard it was for the people around me to know how to connect to me. And so I do tell my 15 yo son that when he wears what is the equivalent to a clown jacket to youth, the kids honestly might not know what to make of it. Some of them will feel embarrassed or strange about it and won't know how to interact with him.

 

Did you see the jacket he wore? It wasn't one of the cool fedoras of the current Doctor Who or the cool coats of the current doctors. It is a literal clown suit. The costume designer who worked for the BBC and was assigned to create a costume for the next Doctor made the clown costume as a joke, but it backfired when then the person in charge at the BBC thought it was great and made the actor wear it, though the actor hated it.

 

So yeah, part of me worried that kids, even in youth, might get weirded out by the kid showing up in a clown suit. Here it is again. Kids that age want to fit in and sometimes worry that if they hang out with someone who doesn't look like the rest of them, that they'll look like they don't fit in by association.

 

I know these things can be true, because it was my life from age 10-25. I did not fit in and a lot of it was my shyness, my clothing, and my hair. And even into my mid-twenties, it wasn't really choice. It was ignorance.

 

I want to repeat--for me, it was ignorance. This is the crux of how I feel about this issue.

 

So, I want to make sure that my sons are choosing the way they look and it's not that they don't have a choice or that they're ignorant of basic human nature or social norms in regards to clothing and hair.

 

But to answer your question, they did not make fun of him and they didn't say anything mean to him. I didn't expect that they would be overtly mean. I did warn him that some of the kids might avoid him if he was looking too over-the-top and that it would be subtle. He's not an 8 yo like the OP. He's 15 and interested in attracting a girlfriend eventually. It's not like he's a little kid. He's taller than me with a mustache. I feel it's important to help him know when he might be making people uncomfortable when he's wearing a clown suit to youth group.

 

 

He took what I said in stride and wore it a few months ago.

 

And, this thread is very current for us, because last Wednesday, he wore it again. And this time, I didn't say a word because I know it's not ignorance on his part, but is choice and I'm 100% ok with that. He is sending a message to everyone that this is who he is and he's comfortable being this person, and I love it. I love it that he has the confidence. But it's his choice and not ignorance. And that makes all the difference.

Sorry for.the whole quote. I am on a phone. Yes I saw it--I clicked the first time. Definitely weirder than a trench coat and I get that.

 

But I think wearing your stuff among friends is different than being new and not knowing what is the norm though you want to fit in.

 

For me I just want my kids to have social groups, period, if they want. Then you have to navigate that group or change groups.

 

We wore literal clown suits and all kinds of crazy things to youth group. It was Young Life so maybe that's different but it was common to wear full on punk or grunge attire, dye your hair pink, wear bowling shoes and clown boots... I mean it was the 90s, what can I say. Maybe teen culture has mellowed since then. Sad to think. We had a great time. I hope kids now can bring it back. It was all about being who you were. God loves you as you are. That's why I became a Christian. The love.

 

I am really sorry you didn't have that experience in church though it doesn't sound like it was bullying, as you say in hindsight it is understandable but sad. :Hugs:

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When I was little, I was unusual because I had a "working mom," our family had the most kids of anyone at the school, and my school wardrobe was Salvation Army or boy hand-me-downs from my brothers.  I mostly didn't mind it, except when the other kids made fun of my shoes.  I rather liked being "unique."  Although my mom was a fashionable type, I myself had no interest and would actively reject attempts to make me look stylish.  I avoided social opportunities as I was extremely introverted.  So I never went to a dance, let alone dressed up for one.  :P

 

My kids are unique too - each different from me.  One is very stylish, the other is slavishly devoted to the color purple (my least-favorite color).  One is a sports nut, the other likes messy "experiments" and mess in general.  Both enjoy people more than I ever did.

 

Our lifestyle is somewhat unusual too - I work at home at all hours, we travel all over the world, we're multi-racial / multi-cultural (but all female) at home, etc.  We didn't do TV until recently (and now it's just the kids watching it occasionally).  Old books, shows, and movies are our favorites too.  When my kids were 8, we finished the Kung Fu series and moved on to I Love Lucy.  :P

 

Sometimes my kids don't get to participate in stuff because they don't have a dad or we're traveling or whatever.  No biggie.  If it was important to them, I would try to find a work-around.  But so far, so good.

 

I assume a fair % of other kids at school are also somewhat nonconformist / unique.  That's what keeps things interesting.  My daughter's best friend is very non-conformist / quirky, but my kids say she's quite popular.

 

As far as how they should dress to go to things, I guide if I think it's needed, but mostly it seems my kids have better fashion sense than I do. 

 

So I guess I'd say, don't worry about it.  Anyone who would look down on your daughter for being "herself" at this age is not worth your consideration.  If you have doubts about the protocol for future events, ask around or look at photos from prior years.  Show your daughter photos so she can get a feel for the boundaries.  I'm sure they are pretty flexible for elementary school girls.

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Pop culture is by definition, what is popular.  Some of it is going to be great.  Some of it not so great.  I think that it is best to teach kids discernment so that they can choose what works best for them out of the huge amount of choices which we have now in our society.  (Other societies and times have had a much more narrow definition of what was acceptable for members of "polite society" to partake in.)  I realize that kids can be harsh on outliers but a lot of that is due to a lack of experience of their own.  And usually if the outlier has confidence, the rest of the kids will be accepting and even admiring.  But of course there are bullies everywhere who see it as a sign of power to call all the shots.  Those are the ones to watch out for. 

 

I don't think that it is a virtue in and of itself to be an outlier.  Nor is it a vice to have tastes that are popular.  I think that this is an area where adults can be just as petty and shallow as kids.  I'd much rather look past the outer shell of someone's clothing and conformity or non-conformity to the person underneath. 

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I don't think that it is a virtue in and of itself to be an outlier. Nor is it a vice to have tastes that are popular. I think that this is an area where adults can be just as petty and shallow as kids. I'd much rather look past the outer shell of someone's clothing and conformity or non-conformity to the person underneath.

I think this is key. We were homeschooled and raised very counterculturally. To varying degrees as adults, we all have chosen to follow many of those countercultural paths, but my siblings all tend to be dressed stylishly, aware of music trends, etc. I think it worth teaching kids to discern and select the good from within pop culture and avoid the bad. There's a lot of individual preference and opinion involved in that. Personally, I like to dress in a style that's current, partially because enough of my choices are "weird" to others and I don't want to appear so "out there" that I'm unapproachable. I don't think that's a moral issue, but my preference. I do think it makes some things easier.

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My kids have been raised a bit like that by virtue of our family. My husband is from Sri Lanka, I am from Spain, our older daughter was born in the U.K. Our younger daughter is the only American born or, as we say, the only one in the family who could ever become the President of the U.S.A.

 

Anyway, we don't care much about popular culture in our family but we do let our kids follow popular culture so they don't feel like complete aliens. For our kids, having at least some familiarity is very important. Our kids have yet to meet anyone with their exact ethnic mix and, even in immigrant heavy schools, they are always kind of on the outside of the different ethnic groups. Not that they don't have friends in the different immigrant groups, but they are never one of them either, and of course, they are not one of the mainstream groups either.

 

My younger daughter is a fan of Doctor Who too. For Halloween this year, she went to school dressed up as the 11th doctor. She was disappointed when people thought she was Bill Nye, the science guy!

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