Earlier this week, Miguel approached me and said, "I've been thinking this through..." He had just woken up and was talking about his hair. He had come to the realization that it was unlikely he would break the record for the World's Longest Mohawk (because the record was broken in November and is now four inches longer than his goal). I asked him if that meant that he was going to get his hair cut and he said that he was thinking about it because he was tired of being mistaken for a girl. Apparently, on several occasions during his various summer camps, people referred to him as a girl and he had never mentioned this to us. He told us that he knows that girls can have short hair and boys can have long hair but, sometimes, it is just easier to look like everyone else. We all want our children to have the confidence and courage to be different. No parent starts this gig saying, "I just want my child to be like everyone else." We want our children to be true individuals and, if we are honest with ourselves, we sometimes seek to impose corrective measures on our past. We look back and wish that we hadn't conformed, that we hadn't given up parts of ourselves, that we hadn't sold our souls to be liked. The thing is that we are outside looking in and our children are in the thick of it all. This is their time and they will have to make their own decisions when they find themselves at cross purposes with others.
There are many differences over which we have no control but, when there is a choice, I hope that I can help my children make informed decisions and recognize their agency. In those moments, I will remind myself that my role as a parent is to encourage individualism, not to show disappointment with conformity - I must support, not judge. We can only walk with our children so far and then...we have to let them walk alone.