brooklyn, challenge, family, holiday, mothers day

How To Raise Kids Who Don’t Follow The Herd

No Comments 11 May 2012

Grandma Sara and Brooklyn

What better gift to give your mom on Mother’s Day than to tell her something you’ve learned from her, I ask?

“Brian, how about an iPad or something.  Wouldn’t that be a better gift?”  Well, maybe, but this is cheaper, so here goes.

One of best lessons I’ve learned from my mom is best illustrated from something that happened in 8th grade.
I really wanted these leather shoes that went a little higher up on the ankle, kind of like half-boots.  The only problem was that they were $62, which was expensive, and we didn’t have much money.  Despite this, I tried to talk my mom into getting them for me.  “They’re cool, and I really like them, and they’ll last a long time,” I reasoned with her.  And my mom was cool. If there’s something you really wanted, and you’d save for part of it yourself, she’d sacrifice and save up and buy it with you.  (For example, my younger brother Eddy really wanted a $100 bath robe, and they saved up together and he got it.  I still think he’s weird for that, though.)  However, at some point I got too impatient with the process, and uttered the words to her that were the death knell to any argument.  “But mom, all the other guys have them!”  As soon as I said it, I knew I was done.  I would never be allowed to get those shoes. My mom would never let anything like “everyone else has it” be a reason for getting something.  My mom doesn’t really get outwardly mad, but I could tell she was quietly upset that I’d even said that.  You could do things and buy things because you personally want them, because they bring you joy, because they help make you better- but never just because “everyone else is doing it.”

Syd as Grandma Sara

Because that was so ingrained, I feel it helped free my siblings and me to make decisions and act in a way that was independent to the crowds around us.  I was one of maybe 2 or 3 guys out of 100 in my fraternity that didn’t drink, one of the few guys on the football team who didn’t swear, and quite often the ‘token Christian guy’ in classes at college.  It allowed my brother Eddy to move to LA to be a model and still be himself, and my other brother Frank feel comfortable being the kid running a soundboard as a teenager with a bunch of adults.  It allowed my sister Kelly to move to Hesston, Kansas, and still avoid…well, I guess they do have herds in Hesston, Kansas, but they’re more of the bovine kind…OK, so it’s different for everyone, but you understand.

It’s not just a ‘don’t do negative things’ mindset either.  In a business sense, if I see everyone doing something one way, a little voice inside me says to ask why and see if there’s a different way.  In college, you could usually tell what a professor wanted the class to say or write in an essay, but I always wanted to give what I thought was the right answer, regardless of what the professor thought.  (Usually they won’t give you an ‘A’, but if you make your point in an entertaining way, they’ll sometimes give you a ‘B’)

You can go overboard in sort of a “If everyone else wasn’t jumping off a cliff, would you still jump?” sort of way.  You can allow yourself to get too prideful in being different just for difference sake, which is just as bad.  The idea isn’t to intentionally be like everyone, or intentionally be unlike everyone. The idea is to make decisions as yourself, regardless of what the herd is doing.

This still pays dividends as I make decisions as a husband and father.  You’ll never hear me saying or even thinking, “Well, all the other wives act this way, so my wife should act this way.”  The only thing that matters is who we are and what we should do in that particular situation.   I’m trying to get this into my 5 and 6 year-old daughters’ heads, and hopefully they’ll understand it.

So, mom, thanks for the great life lesson, and not letting me get those leather-shoe boots.  At least I know what to get you for mother’s day now.

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