I wouldn't call myself extreme in my parenting and what I allow/don't allow in my house but there are some things I'm firm on. My dds still have a lot of mainstream toys but they are more stuff like what was from my childhood. They also don't watch cable. I'm worried about how things will go once my older one is in school full time this year. She goes to a regular public school and as far as I know there aren't any other families with similar views like mine. How do you deal with the guilt and pressure to give in to make your kid feel less like an outcast? Does it always become an issue?
dont want my kids to feel like outcasts
I've always been mainstreamed. We watched tv and videos. (didn't have cable, but would have watched that too) I allowed princess stuff, and junk food, and whatever else was around. My daughter is 19, and there weren't tons of electronic toys, no internet etc.. so, she didn't get exposed to those things until she was older.
Things have changed even in these past 20 years.
Anyway... my daughter went to school with mostly mainstream kids... but, one. Her name is Ari. She seemed completely normal until someone said something to her. Then, she'd say "We don't say lucky, we use the word fortunate" or "We don't eat processed food, we eat home grown foods" (we live in phx, it's hard to have home grown foods here) or "I don't play with kids who's moms work outside the home".
Honestly, she wasn't invited over too often, and when she came to the class parties, she had her own food and she'd criticize what everybody else had. She'd show the parents her paper and wax wrapped snacks and turn her nose up to the prepackaged food the other kids had.
At the bake sales, she would make a point of stopping by the tables to tell the moms running it that it was not "healthy choices" , and "In our home, we don't eat those foods"
She had two moms, and would badger and badger and badger the other kids who had single parents (my daughter had a single parent) "I prefer to have two moms instead of just one...it's sad that you only have one. My moms said it's really sad for you."
So, if she hadn't had all of those thoughts drilled into her head by her parents, (she didn't come up with this on her own) she would have been COMPLETELY ignored by all and loved for only who she is, and she would have fit in perfectly with everyone. Some kids have video games at home....some kids have cool toys out in the yard....some kids have pet rabbits.... there's something each kid has, that other kids want.
When kids come over to play at your house, you will have snacks. It won't be a box of Twinkies, but it will be a snack. Your kids will have awesome toys that other kids want to play with. BUT, when your kids go to other kid's house, your kids will probably play video games, and watch Cable, and eat junk food. (btw, no matter how mainstream I was, i'd have never, ever fed someone else's kids a twinkie)
Just remember, you have different stuff at your house. Kids will want to come over to play at your house. You might have crafts at your house, and some kids never even get to play with playdough because of the mess.... you will offer different experiences that kids will love.
The one thing that makes our family "outcast" is that we're vegetarians. I've explained to my older son why that is our family's choice, but always end the discussions with "but every family makes their own choices. Some choose to eat meat, and that's ok" This avoids the innocent, yet confrontational remarks the pp described. I try not do use the words right/wrong or good/bad when describing any lifestyle choices of ours that are different, so when he encounters the different, he won't naturally assume it's wrong, or assume we're on the wrong side either. We just keep stressing that every family is different in some way, and values/prioritizes different things.
If it's about other kids having more/expensive toys, talk-up the great things your family does like maybe you spend more time together exploring parks/museums. But don't throw in a line about how you're not wasting your money on the toys like the others, or that video games will turn you into a fat slob or something. Just keep up the positive sides only.. as pp said, kids don't learn to judge on their own- they get it from us.
My son's about to start kindergarten, and it's only within the past six months that he's discovered "that red car" is really Disney's Lightning McQueen, and he's discovered who spongebob is (I despise him- it's only because we were in the grocery store, and my son walked past a box of graham crackers and read the words). It's not so much school for me, but the fact that he can read anything in sight that means my days of sheltering are coming to an end, I feel.
I do still try to instill tolerance. I have learned how much my husband and I lack this very thing. Isn't it wonderful how having a child gives you these awesome newfangled skills/perspectives? Ha!
I consider myself a bit of an outcast, sure. We don't like most mainstream music or TV. We eat paleo/whole foods and have to explain why, all. the. time. I rather carry DD in the sling then lug around a stroller. Or how no, I don't give DD milk because I still nurse her *gasp* a few times a day. Or no, DD doesn't like mac and cheese, do you have any frozen peas? She loves those.
Instead of "outcast" or "fitting in" I'm going to just tell DD how unique and different she is and how it's far more interesting to be different then the same. Right? This what I tell myself anyhow!
Overall I think you will find that it is hard to know who is and who isn't a mainstream parent and that personality plays a much bigger role in fitting in than having "mainstream "parents. There are many things every parent does that cross over into a different category so defining mainstream is hard. I gave up trying to figure out how well my dd's friend's parents matched up to me when my dd was this age because it did more harm than good. If my dd eats only non organic candy or only organic whole wheat crackers doesn't matter anymore, what matters to me now is that my dd is on a playdate and happy. She can get over having the occassional junky snack but she wasn't getting over feeling isolated because I was too worried about her being with only one small subset of people who thought and acted like me. I think what matters in the long run is keeping an open mind and avoiding absolutes.
So as my kids got older and become more aware of the larger culture, we just talked about things and tried things. I've felt enough trust in them and respect for them to let them make a lot of their own choices.
I don't feel there is anything natural about repeatedly telling a child "we had a meeting before you were born and made all these choices, so you don't have freewill until you turn 18 and move out."
My kids are teens now and I'm happy with how it's played out. They are genuinely nice people who've developed good skills for making decisions about their lives. Some times they choose the pop culture way, sometimes not. But they've developed a trust for themselves that kids who are always told what to do don't have.
I knew a girl in school as a pp is decribing- how she talked down to everyone, wasnt invited over etc. She dosent seem very happy as an adult now...
I didnt want to buy lunchables for many reasons too long to list. DD1 wanted it badly because others had it. Finally, on sale for like $2, I bought one. She brought it to school, had it for lunch and realized how its not all that and more. End of Story. Never asked again. Why? because there was no food in there!!! I was better off spending the $2, let her see and be done. We ate foods always with our right choices in mind. Yes, there were a few twinkies. Yes my kids love root beer but we reserve it for an occasional treat and we can make home made lemonade and home made bannana bread, choco chip cookies etc.
When we go out for lunch, we dont get requests for happy meals= no mom we have not had sushi in sooooooo long or can we go to the Indian food buffet again pleeeez?????? Its my turn to choose- I want pita house!!
But these are choices DH and I love and we took the kids to these places and have always had these types of food around the house. When DD takes leftover tofu for lunch she gets all types of snide comments. She once asked a friend why she didnt like tofu. Her friend never even tried it. DD told her she was missing out. But now, she is more the free spirit friend to a lot of these types of kids, once I had a mom call me after her daughter ended up here for dinner. Wanted the recipe for my swedish meatballs I served that night. Her daughter had never eaten meatballs before.
Public K is going to be exciting for us too. We are tv-free, DS goes to a lovely preschool with a no-character policy on clothes, I never ever buy licensed stuff even stickers etc. and we eat whole foods. He has some vague ideas about commercial characters like "Spongebub" (yes, that is what he calls it). Our preschool had a strict nutrition policy and the new school has a farm-to-table lunch policy so no issues there. But the onslaught of licensing is going to be horrible.
OP, I wouldn't assume you are alone. Lot's of people out there share your values.
And my kid's preschool where there are a few veg parents but no veg kids in his class, the most envied lunch is this specific tempeh from the farmer's market. DS is SO EXCITED about his lunch today.
This hasn't been an issue yet for my son.
Honestly, there are SO many TV shows, video games, kids' movies, etc. that no one watches and plays them all. It's not like when I was a kid and there were a handful of kids' shows, and if you missed it, you missed it. No DVR, no on demand. So there are some kids in my son's class that watch shows that he doesn't, and he watches some that others don't. If
He brings his lunch to school and many other kids buy their lunches. He doesn't play sports and he's not in scouts. There were 28 kids in his class this past year, so there was a lot of diversity. He knows what other kids watch and he'd still rather watch the Disney Channel. So he knows characters, but he's probably the only kid in his class who still likes Mickey Mouse.
He's never told me that he's ever felt like an outcast, or asked if he could do something or watch something different just because of other kids. He did ask me if he could buy his lunch once, so he could see what it was like, but that was just a curiosity thing.
All kids and families are into different things. It hasn't been a big deal in our house. Religion has been more of a concern, because we are atheists, and other kids talk to him about church. But more than feeling left out, he's just curious and asks questions.
My DD is starting grade 2 in September. Maybe her situation is a little bit different, because she is in Montessori school. But we are different in all ways you can imagine. We eat completely different than usually people do and this is not because of allergies, we just want to do so. We do not vaccinate, we do not take care of our health the ordinary way, we do not punish or praise our kids, we have no TV at our home, my kids have no access to computer yet, they are not going to sleep late at night, that means I do not need to wake them up in the morning etc. And still, my DD has NO PROBLEM with peers at school, kids love her, teachers love her, she can deal with everybody no matter what age the kid is. And since starting JK, she is bringing her own food to school everyday and to every party. Kids notice that and they ask, so do parents and to be honest, not a lot of them understand, but this is not my problem, right? We teach our kids, that everybody is different. The look, the choices, the likes and dislikes. What we need to do is to respect the others. I may think that something is not healthy but someone's mother may not. And that is how it works. We talk about our lifestyle a lot at home and my kids seem to understand. They feel unique, but they also consider everybody else to be unique. And from this point of view there is no reason to feel "to be out".
I'm not concerned with DS being an outcast at all - he's a very friendly kid with a "life of the party" personality. That said, I really don't think there is anything wrong with being different. I am certainly not inclined to compromise my family's values just for him to "fit in."
I agree with PPs that gave older children more freedom to try out other choices or helped satisfy their younger child's curiousity - I think that's healthy. But I think there is something oddly unbalanced when we are so eager to encourage acceptance of other lifestyles that we undermine our children's security in why we do things the way we do. So many decisions ARE made for kids, and I think kids need to know that these decisions aren't frivolous, that there are deep-seated reasons and values guiding the boat.
So...how to do that without raising a self-righteous snob? Don't know...focusing on positivity, focusing on acceptance, focusing on not being too preachy toward others? I think that last one's the main thing. Although, I can't say the thought of my vegetarian lil one politely educating others on healthier choices for themselves and the environment is a horrible thing - I was totally that kind of kid (vegetarian at 5 with no others in the family, starting neighborhood Save the Earth club at 7, you get the idea ).
I don't want DS to sink to the level of the kids that called me a "weirdo" and shoved their lunchmeat in my face in first grade, trying to freak me out - I don't think he should be disrespectful. But I do think he should feel comfortable educating others and explaining why our priorities are what they are.
ETA - fwiw, those same kids who teased me were simultaneously my best buddies for years! Maybe because I never cracked...
This is an issue where many NFL families feel differently. I'm not trying to encourage others to do things the way we do, just trying to give you a different context when you look at other families. Understanding some one else's reasoning can help drop judgements, and I think this is an area where the NFL community could benefit from dropping our judgements of other families.
My DD, for some reason, has always been fairly confident about stuff, particularly with likes and dislikes of pop culture stuff. I concur with Bokonon above that there is so much diversity out there that it really is never an issue that has come up for us. So many kids are into so many different things. When I was kid, there were so few options and I think that I felt the sting of not being allowed to wear certain clothes or watch certain programs because there just weren't that many options to begin with.
I will say, though, that the big issue that has come up for us is religious identity. We're not Christians but DD goes to a private school with a lot of people who identify as Christian and she's the only Jewish kid in our apartment building. Ethnic or religious identity is a lot harder for me to deal with than questions about cable shows and clothing styles. I mean, over time I have learned how to gear the subject to creating and maintaining confidence in herself about her own identity. But, it is hard when a kid looks you straight in the eye and asks why she is "different" than everyone else. That's been the toughest part for me.
With regards to having different food than peers - my son's class this past year was somewhat ethnically diverse, with several children of Indian descent and some of Korean, Filipino, and Japanese descent. My son got to see a lot of different kinds of food that he was unfamiliar with, and found it interesting rather than something to make fun of. We eat various Asian foods on a regular basis, but my kids aren't the most adventurous eaters, so lunchtime was an educational opportunity for him and actually increased his interest in trying new flavors!
Unless you yourself feel that you are better than anyone else, I highly doubt that this is the impression that would be fed to your daughter.
My DS is definitely has some very different preferences than his most of his peers but because like a PP mentioned, most kids are different enough in their own ways that no one really stands out. When they relate to each other, they usually find a common ground or they start adapting fairly quickly. My son who has never seen Batman, Star Wars, etc would usually come home telling me that they played superheroes that day. And that is fine by me. His world is expanding as I am sure his friends' worlds are expanding by what unique things that he brings to the friendship