It is discouraging to me to see my girls already thrown into the battle our culture wages with normalcy. Normal. What is that and what does it even mean? Why is it so important to us to be like everyone else? I don’t even think I could define what a “normal” person is. It frustrates me that my 6-year-old is already struggling with this at such an early age. I set out her favorite super-hero shirt one morning last week for her to wear that day and she immediately protested, “I don’t want to wear that,” she screamed. I knew she had worn it recently, so I didn’t know what was going on. She reminded me of an event months before, when a boy in her class had made fun of her because she was wearing a shirt with superheroes on it. “That is still bothering you? Why do you even care what he thinks? He’s not your friend, why does it matter what one person thinks? You like the shirt, wear it!” It angered this mama that the words of one child – probably just out of silliness, made a remark that has stuck with her for so long and is still influencing her decisions.
After talking to her for several minutes about why she was so upset, “the thing behind the thing” came tumbling out of her mouth…”Mommy, when he said that I shouldn’t be wearing that shirt because I was a girl, everyone said I was weird. I’m different because I’m a girl and I like superheros.” She was labeled different. She wanted to be the same as everyone else. She wanted to “fit in” and be normal so she decided she wouldn’t let the world know about her love of superheroes. It broke my heart. We begin this inner fight within ourselves as children, to fit the status quo and not stand out. We strive to be what “they” tell us we are supposed to be, to like what “they” tell us we should like, and behave how we are told is acceptable. Don’t make any ripples. Stay normal. Be what everyone says you are to be and nothing more. No matter where we go, we are bombarded by media and society with more labels, categories and stereotypes to shape and mold our ideas of what “normal” looks like. If we don’t fit into those boxes, we are “abnormal.”
We had gone over the fact that girls can like superheros and boys can like baby dolls and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But the idea of being “different” was still haunting her. I feel like I have to change the stereotypes and perceptions we have in our world on a daily basis, just so my girls can enjoy the things they truly love. My oldest was struggling with this even in preschool, when a girl made fun of her because she didn’t like “Bratz” dolls and didn’t know who Justin Bieber was. I see my girls becoming their own beautiful human little selves with brilliant ideas, interesting thoughts and amazing talents. I feel like I have to fight for them just so they can be who they really are because of society’s pull on them to fit in and not be too different. I reminded her that being different is what makes the world so interesting.
How boring it would be if we all were identical. God made us with unique minds that think different thoughts, hearts that are pulled to love different things, distinct gifts and talents and bodies in all shapes and sizes. We were never made to be just like everyone else. God delights in our differences and loves our uniqueness. My girls love hearing stories of how Jesus was very different from the society he lived in. He didn’t just make ripples, he made waves. He changed the course of history, he loved on the unlovable. He was friends with the outcasts and did things that made the “religious” people of the day cringe because it didn’t line up with their ideas of what was “normal.” As believers in that same Jesus, we especially should be willing to break the societal barriers in our own lives.
My daughter knows that there are many girls and women (myself included) who love comics and superheros, but her intense desire to be “normal” trumped her head knowledge that day. This made me realize how much I need to outwardly celebrate my girls individuality more frequently and show them, by example not to put much weight in being “normal.” I don’t know why, but somewhere during my late teen years, I stopped caring about being “normal” and fitting in. I didn’t want to wear clothes from “The Gap” anymore just because that was what everyone else was wearing. I discovered my love of shopping in thrift shops and vintage clothing stores (much to my mother’s chagrin for my Senior pictures.) I used a military grenade bag as a purse, loved my “hippie” shirts and wore the heck out of my Doc Marten Mary Janes. I was drawn to old things with a past, like typewriters, furniture, books and records from a begone era. When I realized what I loved and how God created me, I discovered who I was. I was happier and more confident because of it. I was not like most of the girls my age at the time, but I discovered a wonderful freedom when it dawned on me that I didn’t care about that anymore. I was me and that was ok – in fact, it was wonderful. I want my girls to see the value in being who they are meant to be – who God created them to be – without any thought of what others will think or if that is the “normal” thing to do.
That morning, after a 30 minute talk, Cammie finally decided she would wear her beloved purple Avengers shirt and not care what the rest of the world thought of it. Now, when I see her shirt, I am reminded of how we are created with uniqueness that is all our own and it should be worn at all times. After all, normal really is just a cycle on the washing machine and like the laundry that is in it, hopefully the cycle of perpetuating what’s normal and what isn’t, will eventually end.