Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, the torment bred in the race...

The kids I babysit are adorable and very nice. Occasionally difficult, but aren't all kids? If kids are a little difficult sometimes, that just means they're smart. Would you really want some robot of a kid who obeys your every command?

...Well, maybe some parents would. Case in point: my dad is washing dishes while I dry them. He is dissatisfied with the speed at which I am drying the dishes (though I'm not getting in his way). He says: "You know, if you had a drill sergeant breathing down your neck, you might consider going a little faster." Me: "Well, luckily I don't have a drill sergeant breathing down my neck, then. The dishes aren't going anywhere fast."

I firmly believe that you can't run a family like you run the military. Which brings me to the topic for today's post: "be yourself." Someone I follow on twitter tweeted a link to their blogpost "Be yourself? What do you think that really means?" I tweeted a cynical reply that was something to the effect of: "being yourself" = get good grades, go to college, land a lucrative job, and have two kids in a nice, heterosexual marriage. If you think I'm being cynical, I'm speaking purely from experience here. My mom, joker that she is, told her church friend, "I used to tell her [me], get good grades, go to college, get a paying job, get married and have kids. Now that she's going to a women's college, I tell her, get good grades, go to college, get a paying job, get married to a MAN, and have kids."

Now, I'm not a lesbian, but can you see where I would find this annoying?

So what does "be yourself" really mean? I mean, who else would you be being? I think a lot of people--kids and adults--don't know who they are. The teens and twenties are part of that exploration of self. Cliques and groups in high school, often based on style and interests, are part of that teen need to define oneself. It's my opinion that self isn't necessarily fixed; if it was, people would be irredeemable. People recreate--or destroy--themselves all the time. Significant life events change who you are. Why do adults, well past those exploratory teen years, go through mid-life crises? They don't know who they are; or rather, they are changing into a new person and missing the old one.

All these thoughts kind of converged in my brain this past Sunday, where I listened to a sermon about the prodigal son. The lesson deals with a common source of contention between parents and children--money--but in the end, the son returns to the father and the father takes him back. Now that's all very well, but what if the story had been about the prodigal daughter who comes home pregnant? Or a son who comes out to his parents? The point of the story is that parents should accept their kids no matter what, and no matter who they are. Unfortunately, "be yourself," as the tweeter replied to me, more often than not means "be a source of pride to me."

And while I'm not saying you should hurt your parents, neither should you live to please them.


  1. It's so true that your "self" isn't fixed. The one thing about "being yourself" is, like you said, you don't really ever know who you are and even when you have an idea, you change. Good post, Laura. It made me think... (which is a good thing, by the way. Haha!)

  2. Glad to have initiated the firing of neurons! ;)

  3. This is very though provoking. It reminds me of a few decades ago when people were "trying to find themselves." I wonder if they were successful. And "Do your thing" was a biggie, too.

    I heard that It's healthy for teens to go through a rebellious phase. We all need to do this (not in a drastic, destructive sense) to become independent and take charge of our own lives. Some people never figure out who they are. Others are late bloomers. I'd say you're on the right track. We can't live our lives to please our parents, and as a parent, we have to reach the point where we hand over the reigns to our kids and realize we can't live their lives for them. Gotta give them room to fall and pick themselves up. Sometimes it's hard to do that! Nice post.

  4. I completely agree with your "be yourself" translation. It's always about what they mean versus what they say, and what you're going to do with it...or what you're going to through away.

  5. @LynNerd: I always thought that it was ironic, how people in the counterculture sought identical escape routes from conformity.

    @K.D.: Yep, you have to read between the lines whenever parents tell you what they want...


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