Talk to Your Kid about Being a Weirdo

First day of kindergarten was Show & Tell day at Blossomwood Elementary school, a sort of “get to know your class” activity. Letters went home to parents and kids returned to school carrying the most fascinating things.

Turtles, dried out bee hives, summer camp t-shirts…every child had an object and every object had a story.

That is, until a brown-eyed girl marched up to the front of the classroom empty-handed. The teacher seemed unsure, but the child smiled with excitement, so she shooed her along. Little feet stomped up cement block stairs to the center of the make-shift stage. She turned to face the classroom.

And that is when 5-year-old Mary Katherine pulled her hands out of her pockets and pointed straight down at her girly-parts.

Theeeeeeeese are my private parts!”

(Then, pointing to the class) “Yooooooou cannot touch them!!!”

(Hands now on hips) “If you do, I will scream. And then I will dial 9-1-1…. Thank you.”

And with a curtsy I hopped off the stage and headed back to my desk, beaming with satisfaction.

The teacher  handled things well–all things considered. After settling the classroom, she headed to the office and called my mother, laughing.

“Let’s just say MK is not like her sister. She’s definitely….different.”

Different.  A label that stuck for the next 25 years.

In kindergarten I didn’t mind it so much. All a kid really cares about is pizza and playgrounds at that age. But some time, right around 6th grade, that label started to hurt. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to have shiny hair, an LL Bean jacket, and Express flare-cut jeans. I wanted to look and act like the popular girls  in the school.

I wanted to blend in. To fit in.

Because by the ripe age of 12 I had already discovered that sometimes being a stand out means being a stand alone.

And standing alone can get pretty lonely.

Well, my family couldn’t afford name-brand clothes. So off to school I went, wearing combat boots and hand-me-downs. I walked through those double doors, whispering my mantra to the universe.

Different is cool. Different is cool. Different is cool.

A few years later, I discovered pom poms and popularity. I borrowed fancy clothes, rolled my hair, and smeared powder-blue makeup on my eyelids. I was voted Best Dressed. I got myself a boyfriend. And at the pinnacle of it all, I managed to nab a lead role in the high school play.

Every night before the curtains rose, I was sick. My stomach knotted up and I just kept thinking, “Nobody is going to buy this. I’m not this role. I’m not this person.”

But each night I managed to get through it. Delivering the right lines. Feigning the right emotions.

Applause, curtains, rehearsal, repeat.

When the play was finally over, I was so relieved. So I resumed my normal life.

Applause, curtains, rehearsal repeat.

Even though the play was over, my show still had to go on.  I curled my hair, grabbed my pom poms, and took on the role I had been assigned. I was cool. I was popular.

I was miserable.

Let me tell you, friends. That’s no way to live.

But how many of us have wasted entire seasons of our life walking in the shoes of a stranger?  Scared to be ourselves for fear of being isolated?

It’s true that standing out can mean standing alone. But when it comes down to it, is there anything lonelier than being a stranger to oneself?

Let me answer that from experience: NO!

I finally quit my career as an actress. It just didn’t suit me. Not as a person and–most importantly–not as a parent.

You see, I want my son to know it is okay to be a stand-alone. That I is okay to let your freak flag fly. I want Nugget to be one-in-a-million….not part-of-the-crowd.

I want him to stomp on to that makeshift stage with confidence and announce to the world that DIFFERENT IS AWESOME.

And maybe parents will talk. And maybe the teachers will stare.

But I’ll smile, pat his butt, and whisper, “It’s okay if they stare, son. That means they are watching.”

beyou

Be you…because YOU are awesome.

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About The Author


MomBabble

Mary Katherine is a southerner, born and raised. Growing up in Alabama, she developed an affinity for lightning bugs, sweet tea, playing guitar, and having strong opinions. She's happily married with a son (Nugget) and two fur babies. Fun facts: MK is a living kidney donor, speaks a little Thai, and has written two novels.

7 Comments

  1. I love this article. My son is in 1st grade and they worry so much abut what other kids think about them. I tell him all of the time that he is Awesome and only Awesome kids will be his friend and he should Never Ever have to try to get someone to be his friend! Friends just happen, it’s better to be Unique.

    1. First of all, thank you so much for reading! What makes us different most definitely makes us awesome. Your sons sure are lucky 🙂

    2. I can hardly write thru the tears this I believe was me as a child although I had a lot of close friends and did very well in school I have married had 4 beautiful children and 1 miscarriage A long marriage. A husband that then chose to leave. A second marriage that ended 4 years ago and now at the age of almost 59 and about to become a grab anyday am reflecting on my life I have been different I have been alone inside my head all my life very alone and sad but at the same time I am a very positive happy living caring and empathetic lady.i have many health issues one of which can be life threatening at the age of 21 I was diagnosed with kidney disease and only because I was raised by wonderful parents I have never indulged in the things that could affect my kidneys I live life everyday like I am on borrowed time but I know as my mother always said there is always someone worse off than myself have a lovely day

  2. Both of my girls gave been those different children! Nothing wrong with it. They have carved out their own paths to travel. They are beautiful young women.

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