Do Kids Have a Need to Conform to the Norm?

My friend Jen over at The Path Less Taken spotted this picture of Zahara and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt sightseeing and noticed the negative comments about Shiloh’s appearance wearing a short, shaggy haircut and boyish clothing, comments such as “She could be such a pretty girl…” and “Why the short hair and boys clothes?!” and possibly most disturbing, “Angie should take her to a therapist that specializes in children with gender issues.”

First off, to those people I’d like to say: get a life. Seriously. There are so many reasons a girl might cut her hair that way. It’s not in style in America, maybe, but the world is bigger than the good ol’ U.S. of A. and it’s possible that cut is stylish for girls in some part of the world. Or perhaps Shiloh or an enterprising sibling did a little impromptu barbering, and this haircut was an attempt to salvage it until it grows out. Or she has a sensitive scalp and short hair is a blessing to her.

Or maybe … just maybe … Shiloh likes it that way. I can’t say I know Shiloh and what she actually likes or doesn’t like, but I am a mother of four children, and I know pretty well what they like and don’t like … and to the commentor who said “I don’t know ANY kid who wants to outstand from the rest” all I have to say is, then you haven’t met my kids. Or me as a kid, for that matter.

Hair Choices

So when my daughter takes her pretty, natural hair from long and light brown …

Girl's Hair

… to a bright red boyish cut …

Nova Short Haircut

… and her brother wants to grow his hair long enough for a ponytail …

Boy with Long Hair

… I let them do it. It’s just hair. It’s not permanent. It’s not illegal or even immoral!

And in my experience, once they get the “I’m curious to try it” it out of their system, they often choose to go back to a more conventional style:

Conventional Haircuts

But even if they don’t, it is their hair. This will never be a good avenue of rebellion against parental authority for them, because they know it is their hair and I’m fine with whatever they want to do with it. If they ask my opinion, I’ll tell them what I like better, or what I think is more flattering, and leave it at that. And if the waiter calls her “sir” and him “miss,” we all just smile at each other.

Beyond Hair

Ditto Noa decorating herself with Sharpie tattoos …

Sharpie Tattoo

… or her sister with purple curlicues …

Purple curlicues

… or whatever this is …

Kyro's Heart

… or Mica and friends deciding to take a dip in the pool in January …

January Swim

… or “swimming” in the big warm tub (still in swimsuits after that January dip) …

January Swim

… or getting funky with mud body decorations …

Kids in Mud

… or sleeping in my big bed until they are perfectly comfortable leaving …

Big Bed

… or double piercing one ear, with a single in the other …

Double Piercing

… or decorating their clothing with Sharpies …

Decorated Shirt

… or playing with boy’s toys …

Minky with Boy Toys

… or girlie dress-up clothes …

Dress Up

… or even draping a scarf over a potty seat for a crown …

Potty Crown

I just can’t work up the wherewithal to worry about making sure my kids conform to the normThey’re kids. They’re having fun. They’re wonderful.

The Payoff

My kids are healthy …

Gymnastics, biking, hiking:

Minky @ gymnastics

Above the City

My kids are open to new experiences …

Mica with a banana iguana at the Herpetological Rescue Center:

Minky with Banana Iguana

Kyler in borrowed battle gear at the Society for Creative Anachronism:

Society for Creative Anachronism

My kids are creative …

Colter thought up this “babysitter” costume for Halloween himself:

Babysitter Costume

Noa designed and decorated the fairy cupcake wonderland for Mica’s eighth birthday party:

Fairy Wonderland Cupcakes

Noa won second place at the State Fair for her pottery:

2nd Place Pottery

My kids are skilled …

Colter learns to use power tools from his grandfather:

Lock with Power Tools

Noa sculpts a character from one of her fantasy stories:

Nova Sculpting

My kids are loving …

Colter reads to his little sister:

Lock Reads to Minky

They even play together nicely (well, sometimes):

Swimming Together

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, they are kids. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt is a kidWhat better time to become secure in your identity by figuring out what you do and don’t like rather than always being forced to do the accepted thing? What better way to learn to be accepting of others who have different hair or skin color or physical differences than to be accepted despite your own differences?

Me, age 4ishMe, as I look nowWhen I was little my hair was cut almost exactly like Shiloh’s, and I was an extreme tomboy. And yet today, I am a stay-at-home mom. I homeschool, I breastfed my children until they decided to wean, and in fact, for most of my childhood and all of my adult years, I have preferred long hair.

How does “hair length” weigh in that list against the other items? Would I be less feminine if I did those things and had short hair? Because I know women who do.

Styles come and go, but the precious gift of individual expression, when given in childhood, allows the child to grow up secure in her sense of self, and perhaps more importantly, secure in the knowledge that she is loved no matter what choices she makes.

FURTHER READING:
How Did I End Up Here?
Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Wants to Be One of the Boys But That Doesn’t Make Her One

 

Sadly, when I switched my blog from Winging It to Carma with a C, I lost a lot of things including comments! So I’m copy/pasting them when I can.

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