I was on Pinterest this morning and came across this quote: “They laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh because they're all the same”. I loved it so much that I put in on my Facebook wall. I've been thinking about it all morning- actually, I can't stop. Why? I've always lived my life this way and I hope I'm teaching my daughter to do the same.
Middle school. Ugh. We're almost done. In two short weeks, my daughter will walk out of eighth grade. She will officially be in high school. While that might make some moms cringe, I am ecstatic. I can't wait to close the door on the past three years. I look forward to Rosie being able to hopefully have a fresh start in the Fall (we've applied for a transfer. Fingers crossed). So does she.
An interesting thing happens in middle school- being different can make you a target. The things that made you interesting in grade school now make you somewhat of an oddball as teens form cliques. The innocent teasing of youth can escalate into bullying quickly so many kids just learn to follow along so they're left alone. For the first time in their lives, being the same has a reward. It's pretty sad.
But, guess what? Being the same is boring. Following the crowd causes you to lose a sense of self. It can make you average and who wants to be that?
They laugh at me because I'm different. I laugh at them because they're all the same.
I taught my child at an early age that different was good. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round and every body has different personalities, hobbies and quirks so they can grow up and find their perfect place in the world. I made sure she knew that people came in all shapes and sizes. That some kids had two mommies and that it makes no difference what color your skin is or what God you worship. I made sure she knew that her friends on the spectrum weren't any different from her inside- they just processed differently and may need a little help. As I listen to the things my fourteen year-old says now, I know I did a good job. Unfortunately, many parents don't and the first time you really get a good glimpse of that is in middle school because these kids finally get a voice.
The kid whose father's a bigot torments a dark-skinned boy. The girl whose parents can't control her sends profanity-laden messages of hate via social media. The teen who is ignored at home acts out for attention. The bully who has a bully for a mom, starts to further hone her skill- she now has a larger posse and more kids to push around. All of them pick on the kids that are different. It's sad and it hasn't changed in decades. It was the same when I was in middle school too.
But guess what? The kids that were different when I was in school are the ones that are wildly successful now. They're the ones that had big dreams and cool ideas. They didn't think like everyone else. They weren't like anyone else. While kids thought them strange in middle school, they actually weren't. They were fascinating. They were bright, could think outside the box and weren't afraid of hard work. I've told that to my teen a thousand times and I know that deep down she believes me but when you're caught in a world that rewards being the same as everyone else, it's hard to see.
All those kids that act, dress and talk the same? They grow up to be adults that follow the pack too. How boring. I've never been one of those women and I won't raise my child to be one either.
Be different darling. Dance to your own music. Create your own magic in life. Master the Universe. Learn to toss your head back in laughter at all those kids that want to be just like everyone else. Being the same is boring. Dare to be different.