I can admit to you that my life has often been driven by what people think of me. At certain times in my life, I worked very hard to make sure I “fit in.” OK, most of the time.
As a kid, I remember always trying to make sure people thought I was smart enough. I also wanted all my buddies to think I had enough sports ability to be chosen for the games of kickball or basketball we were playing on the playground. Neither my “smarts” nor my athletic ability measured up, most of the time. Once in awhile I was lucky, but otherwise, there always seemed to be a large number of guys more talented. I was usually one of the last ones chosen, but I was grateful.
Later in life, when girls became more of an interest instead of a nuisance, I remember trying to get their attention. Some girls just liked nice guys. Some girls liked guys who were cool, more of a “bad boy” persona. Some girls liked funny guys and I could usually fit into that realm.
No matter what a guy did to get their attention, most girls in the early years would declare that they “just wanted to be friends.” After comparing notes with some of my good friends, we decided all girls were the same. You take them to the movies, you buy them a hamburger, you drive them home and they just want to be friends. Dang. I never would figure out these pesky females.
I went on to college and continued my quest to fit in. With my peers in teacher education, I tried to be the quirky tall guy who was interested in teaching lower elementary children. This was a rarity and I found that being the only guy in some of those classes was advantageous. Mature college girls liked quirky. Professors, especially the female ones, admired my willingness to teach little kids and I often got to be teacher’s pet. Sheesh. Looking back, I think I must have been pretty full of myself.
My friends from Chicago were “citified” to a boy from a rural community in southern Illinois. So, I worked pretty hard to make my friends think I was in the “know” about all things cosmopolitan and trendy. Still, many of my friends wanted to visit my hometown, asking me often if we owned livestock.
I can’t tell you that the need to fit in has left me completely. I mean, I think we all want acceptance to a certain degree. We want people to step up and notice us. Right?
Michelle and I made a pledge long ago that we would do whatever we could to be at home with our kids. Often, this would mean she would work part time or not at all. Knowing that a teacher’s salary often requires one to tighten the belt, we knew that times might be lean. We’ve have had more lean than fat, I’m afraid. Still, we count our blessings and we are content with what God has given us.
We have good friends who are in the same boat, and it’s been a blessing to swap baby clothes and hand-me-downs with them. Our kids have been well-dressed despite our budget.
However, my stupid pride has gotten in my way quite often. I never wanted people to think my children looked like bargain basement kids. Although I was proud of my career and how hard I worked, I didn’t want my kids to suffer by looking like ragamuffins. Like I said, stupid pride.
I remember getting stressed out if I had to dress the kids, especially my daughter. What if I didn’t find clothes that matched? What if I couldn’t comb her hair right? What would people think?
Gradually, and as kiddos were added to the household, I mellowed. Eventually, I was just grateful we could find both shoes and that our faces were clean. After a while, your pride is eclipsed by survival.
This morning, I pulled the “baby bag” from the backseat of the car. I could already feel the hot sun on my neck and I could tell it would be one of those humid, hot June mornings.
As I hoisted the bag out of the car, I noticed the baby’s beloved rubber boots tucked in the bag. They are rainbow-colored. They are rubbery and hot to wear, I’m sure. They were the prize at the bottom of a sack of hand-me-downs recently dropped off by some dear friends. She fell in love with them.
The boots are her “go to” shoes. She can easily put them on and most of the time, even gets them on the correct feet. This is a big deal when you are about to turn 3. I can see her choosing to wear the boots with her swimsuit when we make our first visit to the pool.
A few years ago, I would have fussed and fretted at her brothers or sister had they wanted to put on rain boots on a hot summer day. I mean, what would people think? This makes me sad to think about. I should have let them dress themselves and throw caution to the wind.
Although it’s taken me four kids and 40-something years to learn some lessons (and I’m still learning), at least I can honestly tell you those little boots don’t bother me one bit. I don’t care where she wears them. They make me happy instead of self-conscious. It’s not about me anyway, is it?
Heck, I’ll probably have them bronzed when she grows out of them.