Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 27, 2008

Brown Loafer Nerd or Black Skecher Punk?

Men's Fish Tank Platform Shoes

The above question is the kind of choice I face regularly as the parent of a six-year-old. To be more precise, it’s like this:

Do I let my son wear his favorite brown Target/Cherokee loafers whenever he wants, usually with white socks and shorts, so that he looks like a dorky sixty-year-old retiree, and makes me look like I don’t know what I’m doing when we’re out in public? Or do I force him to wear the cool black slip-on $40+ Skechers that I reallyReallyREALLY wish he had more of a natural affinity for, just so he develops a habit of compromising in order to better “fit in”?

I know fashion doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, especially among first-graders. But I still get concerned about the dozen various situations every week where he shows that he’s not so socially adept. On the other hand, there are more than a few spoiled brats out there in nice Skechers, and Hollister t-shirts, and whatver other pre-teen fashion is filtering down to grade-schoolers… kids that are inclined to kick your mailbox with those Skechers instead of picking up trash on the street like my kid. I certainly don’t want him to be one of those kids. In fact, I’d prefer Graham be cool enough to make fun of those kids, the followers, and to be a trendsetter of his own now and then. Plus, it’s damned expensive to keep a kid in the latest fashions, all the time. (One reason to be glad I have only the one, and he’s a boy.)

What a rotten choice: I want him to think for himself, and to be himself… and yet I ALSO want him to think and do like everyone else a bit more, so he’s spared some of the frustration I’ve felt over the years as an “outsider”, or a “brain”, or just too smart or independent for my own good.

It would have been fine if I wasn’t such an extrovert. If I didn’t want everyone to be my friend, and be a football star, and be on the chess team, and perform in plays, and start a rock band, and to have a girlfriend or two prior to age 17 — if I didn’t want “it all”, in other words, if I could just settle. But I’ve always been a know-it-all, feeling superior somehow, despite a pretty low self-esteem. Not conducive to being liked by everybody, is it? I’m a nice know-it-all, but perhaps a boring blowhard when I get on a roll. Oh well.

And I see some of that in my son, who makes a point of correcting people (both young and old), and yet himself does not take criticism or guidance very well at all.

I’m sure it will all work out, and he’ll probably have to take a hard tease now and then from his peers just to see where the line is, and whether he wants to toe it or not. But in this present waiting period, it’s all I can do to hold off the visions of a 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face all his life.

Or here’s another weird analogy: would I rather raise a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs, a Warren Buffet, an Oprah Winfrey, a Mark Cuban, or a Richard Branson? Billionaires all, and yet each has been accused of being kind of jerky, self-centered, nerdy, or just plain odd.

Aw heck, who cares! As long as he becomes a billionaire and buys me that yacht I’ve got my eye on, and those awesome original Elton John platform shoes with the goldfish bowl in the heel.


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