When Do We Teach Kids to Conform vs. Being an Individual?

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Later, I was reading to one of my boys at bedtime. We started on one of the great children's classics -- Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman -- and there it was on page 38: a poster hanging at Harold and George's school that looked like this:

I began to panic. Was making all the kids adhere to this dress code a similar kind of "mindless conformity"? By forcing Emmy to respect tradition, was I inadvertently passing on the message of this poster to "be just like every else," that "individuality causes pain"?

This particularly bothered me because of my faith. To be honest, one of the reasons I became so taken with Jesus was exactly because he was a non-conformer. Heal on the Sabbath? Yep. Eat with social outcasts like tax collectors and prostitutes? Bring it on. He didn't care about societal rules or tradition. As Paul put it in his letter to the Romans:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God -- what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Was God trying to talk to me through a Captain Underpants book? It seemed a little improbable, but truth has come from weirder places. I think.

So after I put the boys to bed, I went to Emmy and asked her how strongly she felt about the whole dress thing. She said she was OK, but she really would prefer to wear leggings and this cool black and blue shirt she has. I told her that was OK. She could wear what she wanted to school, and just bring the dress as back-up, if she changed her mind.

Her face lit up again. Maybe individuality doesn't cause so much pain after all.


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