Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Be Yourself

I am off the parenting hook this week as my ex wife has taken the kids on a short camping vacation in northern Massachusetts. Free from the day to day routine, I have been able to win for myself a little time to think and mentally prepare for the upcoming school year. As my oldest enters into his teens and my twins hit the bit one 0 I have realized that now, more than ever, I need to reinforce one two word sentence over and over again. "Be yourself. "

Two things happened on Monday that brought home to me the need to have "Be Yourself" the theme for the year.

Suffering from another bout of insomnia I found myself watching The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. In it, Williams and Lane play a gay couple who, at the behest of their son, attempt to pretend they are straight in order to impress a conservative politician to whose daughter their son is engaged. While the movie was very over the top, it did bludgeon home the point that if you try to be something you are not that you are only fooling yourself (and Gene Hackman).

The other thing happened at the beach where I saw two Muslim women, each wearing a full chador, enjoying the sun and surf. My first thought was "gosh...that must be terribly uncomfortable." The second was "this is what they wear so why shouldn't they have their time in the sun like the rest of us." Amidst a sea literally full of bared flesh, these two woman adhered to their culture's imperative that they retain their modesty and cover themselves in public...even at the beach....they have not caved in to our cultural expectations, instead they were being true to themselves (I hope).

As parents we ought to be in the business of raising individuals so one of the basic lessons we should be teaching our kids is to be themselves. To do so is to struggle against innumerable cultural imperatives that pressure our kids and ourselves, to conform, to cover up, and to act like everyone else. Failure to resist these cultural pressures results in us and our children being less than who we are. Success means that we have raised strong individuals, albeit at the possible loss of popularity. However, I try to teach my kids that anyone who does not want you to be yourself is someone not worthy of being your friend. Anyone who cares about you would want and demand that you be yourself.

While we all have to make compromises in order to get along and function in society...as life is a series of compromises...the trick is to avoid becoming compromised. After all, we all deserve to be ourselves and have our time in the sun.


  1. A-frickin-Men! very very true. I never want my son to long to be anyone else. unless it's me! hahah.teasing

  2. Excellent post Tom. Being authentic, true to yourself is the key to anyone's happiness and evolvement - and for some - probably the most difficult. I suspected my eldest daughter may be gay when she was in early high school and I asked her about it. She was vehement that she wasn't -- and why was I asking her that. I explained that if she was, that I wanted her to be herself and never have to come our of a closet -- because I didn't want her going into one. Years have passed and she is a happy, healthy young woman, finally comfortable in her own skin.But she suffered greatly in the years that she denied herself and tried to be what she thought our family and her friends wanted.

    Keep working the way you are ... your kids will thank you some day.

  3. Excellent post, well said.
    Each of my 3 children have very different personalities, and I try hard to let each one be who he is (while still respecting the rules of the house, of course.)It ain't easy...