Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Each night, I take 5-10 minutes to tuck in the kids. At 11, I suspect Parker may decide soon enough that he is too old for such nonsense, but for now, bedtime is something we both look forward to as a bonding moment. Sometimes, we simply talk about what happened that day; sometimes, we talk about what he’s been reading or a shared experience. Every night, we end with talking about our favorite part of the day; it ensures that the kids end each day with positive thoughts and the knowledge that they are loved and important.

Our just-before-bed talks also end up being the time when Parker opens up and talks to me about things that might otherwise go unsaid. Recently we’ve been giving him a bit of a hard sell on cutting his hair. We’ve tried every angle – it’s going to be really hot this summer, it looks kind of messy, sometimes he doesn’t keep it brushed nicely – to no avail. A bed time talk ended my desire to encourage Parker to cut his hair.

“Mom,” he said. “I have had my tail since kindergarten, even when my hair was really short.” It’s true, even when he kept his hair buzzed, he faithfully worked on growing a tail, even through my accidental thinning of the thing when buzzing off his hair. He went on: “I used to get teased about my tail, and now I get teased at school about my long hair. But I like it. I like who I am. And I like who I am going to be. Rock stars look good with long hair, and hair only grows about an inch a year, so I need to keep working on it.”

Of course, I don’t want my BABY to get teased, and said as much. I admit, there was some eye-rolling on Parker’s part.

But here’s where the wisdom of youth lies, if we just let it have a voice. Parker explained, “Mom, there are different groups of people at school. There’s the people like ___ and ___ who are really popular and kind of jerks. There are ___ and ___ who are funny and cool. Then there’s people like me. I don’t really fit. But that’s ok. I don’t care if I’m popular, because to be popular, I’d have to change who I am. I don’t want to do that. Even if it means I get teased.”

Parker marches to the beat of his own drum, literally. He has a clear idea of who he is and who he wants to be. Dave and I have always fostered independence and individuality in our children, and somehow, let Parker’s long hair almost get in the way of that. I am so very proud of Parker for embracing who he is so fully and not worrying about what anybody – even his parents – think about his style and personal expression.

3 thoughts on “Why It’s Ok NOT To Be Popular

  1. Shadra, thank you for sharing. Indeed, my daughter has hit hard times with her peers as the pre-teen years hit. And we’ve talked to her over and over again about how seeking that the children who focus on being popular at the expense of developing their distinctive self will be the ones working for her in the future! Plus, how scared and worried many of them feel on the inside that their thin veneer of safety will disappear.

    For her it was helpful to understand the real dynamics behind most popularity contests and how they work out as you grow older. It’s helped her become confident and carve out a spot for herself that’s not caught up in the currents of fashion and who’s who.

    1. Sarah,

      Parker and I have had similar conversations about the kids who are popular now wanting to be his friend when he is a famous rock star. :) We encourage him to surround himself with kids who like him BECAUSE he is who he is, and to not compromise his own value just to be liked. We also encourage him to be accepting of others.

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