No, this is not a post about that TV show from the '80's (although I will share with you quickly that whenever Vivi says something silly, I usually reply "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" to which she always answers "I'm not Willis, Mommy, I'm Genevieve"). Rather, this is a post about how I help my kids understand that we do some things differently in our family from other families.
I'll start by saying that until very recently, I thought we had a while before the topic of family differences would arise. Granted, I knew the conversation would happen some day because we are different from other families. I mean, I wash our hair with baking soda. I swap an empty cooler for a cooler full of big hunks of raw meat in a parking lot once a month. I am currently researching how to make my own bin full of worms (in fact, just last night I could be heard commenting to the hubster, "You know, if I put down a big piece of cardboard in the yard, I can harvest a bunch of worms the next morning."). These are not scenes from your average Norman Rockwell painting by any standard.
In some respects, Vivi is still very much an egocentric being, believing at most times that everyone is thinking what she's thinking or feeling what she's feeling. My favorite example of this phenomenon is when she covers her eyes and believes we can no longer see her. I'm invisible!, she'll shout.
However, my time judgment was off by a bit because a few weeks ago--just before her fourth birthday, now that I think about it--she began asking probing lifestyle-related questions. Why do we always buy our clothes at church sales instead of in a store like Old Navy? (Yes, she knows Old Navy by name and considers it high-class shopping. Check. My work here is done). Why are we planting our own tomato plants instead of getting them at the grocery store? Why don't we ever eat at that restaurant with the sign that looks like a M made of french fries?
Enter a wonderful book we got from the library called Sheila Says We're Weird. In fact, the short version of this post would have been for me to say: Want to help your kids understand it's okay to be different? Get this book. The premise of the book is that Sheila is the neighbor of a family who attempts to live sustainably: they bike to the library, cut their grass with a push mower, and hang their laundry out on a line to dry, among other energy-saving activities. Although Sheila says these things are weird, she finds out that she loves eating homemade soup, helping them in the garden, and sitting by the woodstove in the winter. It can be fun to be different!
This is a sweet story, and I do think it helped Vivi understand that not everyone must do everything the same way. We don't do some of the activities listed in the book (this family is an inspiration!), but even if you don't do most or any of this family's activities, the point of the story will still ring true for your kids. While the suggested ages are 5 and up, I wholeheartedly recommend the book for older 3s and up. Actually, I know a few adults who could benefit from reading it too. He he.
What are your experiences with being different? Are they positive, or do you feel criticized by others for your life choices?
Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Stepping out of the box and dealing with criticism — Stoneageparent shares how she deals with criticism over her parenting choices
- BEWARE of Sanctimommy — Amanda at Blinded by the Light talks about how recognizing your own inner-sanctimommy and how it will facilitate ways to deal with other criticism in your life.
- We're on the same team — Brittany from The Pistachio Project shares about how we should support and respect each other because we already get enough criticism from the outside world.
- 30 Responses To Parenting Criticisms — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares 30 ways in which you can respond to parenting criticisms.
- A Case for the Dramatic — A smart-alec response to a stranger's view by Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
- I Could Never... — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how the phrase "I could never" really means "I would never want to" and how owning our words and actions can lead to understanding and empathy.
- Admiration For A Parent's Strength— Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares her admiration for parents who continue to make parenting choices in the best interest of their child even when those closest to them disagree.
- Assumption Free Zone — Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries challenges us to cultivate kindness for everyone; even if you disagree with them.
- Perfection, Criticism, Parenting and The Sock Police — Ariadne @ The Positive Parenting Connection is sharing how parenting has been an excercise in overcoming perfectionism and handling criticism.
- Silencing the Voices In My Head — At Authentic Parenting, Laura writes about fighting her inner critic.
- Tackled from the Sidelines — Marisa from Deliberate Parenting reveals what parenting choices she makes that are most often questioned and how she is coming peacefully to the defense of her decisions.
- Different Strokes — Justine from The Lone Home Ranger shares the method she uses to explain her family's "crunchy" differences to her preschooler.
Editor's note: This post is also shared with Seasonal Celebration Sunday and Works for Me Wednesday.