Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Around the Bonfire

by Gigi Ross on October 24, 2012

be unique

Do you encourage your children to think for themselves? Be unique? Not follow the crowd?

How much of your own parenting advice do you actually follow?

This is the subject of today’s thought-provoking post by Nina Badzin, whose writing I have always enjoyed. The first Nina post I read was about her putting her foot down and not enrolling her kids in too many activities. I loved that post because it resonated with my own parenting philosophies. Read Nina’s perspective on teaching our kids to be unique…and the inevitable questions that follow.

I constantly say to my kids “be yourself,” or some other version of that advice. Don’t worry what other kids are doing. Who cares if you’re the only one? I must invoke this “celebrate your individuality” message at least once a day. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s working.

This week my 8-year-old son told me he wouldn’t read the Nate the Great books I got from the library. Why? “Nobody in my class is reading those,” he said. The next morning, my 5-year-old daughter, who constantly fights me on getting her hair out of her face, asked me to give her pig-tails because that was how two other girls from her class had started wearing their hair the previous week.

“It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing,” I said. But then I had to look in the mirror. I mean I literally had to look in the mirror because we were in the bathroom doing her hair. I winced as I realized I was wearing what has become something of a uniform for me and plenty other women my age: some sort of Lululemon frock.

Do I, giver of the never-ending advice on “being yourself,” know how to be an individual?

In the important, deeper sense, I think that I do. Being a blogger breeds a sense of individuality by forcing me to assert my point of view on everything from why I think kids should learn to call adults Mr. and Mrs. to non-parenting topics like why I don’t trust most online book reviews, and why I think all the thanking people do on Twitter is not only annoying, but disingenuous.

I can be opinionated, and my opinion is not always popular. In other words, yes, many of the choices I make give me the right to say to my kids, “Be yourself.” But my consumer choices? Not so much. I suspect that almost every item I ever “had to” own bears a shameful resemblance to what every other girl growing up in Highland Park, Illinois in the 80s and early 90s coveted during those years.

I thought it might be fun to reminisce. The list below is (sadly) only a sliver of what I desperately wanted.

7th grade: Wig Wam socks, Farlow jeans, Colors of Benetton perfume
8th grade: Clinique makeup
9th grade: Oversized flannel shirts from The Gap
10th grade: Coach purses
11th grade: Kate Spade purses (It was a fancy suburb!)
12th grade: Bobbi Brown and MAC makeup
College: black pants, Steve Madden shoes with chunky heels
Post-College (around 2000): Juicy sweat suits, absurdly priced denim, Uggs

I could easily continue that list right up to today, but I won’t because it would embarrass all of us. Really, think about all things you want now. I’m talking about types of cars, computers, phones, even certain clothes and other items for yourself or the kids. Why do we want those specific brands?

And we can’t let ourselves off the hook just because we don’t always get the brand name stuff. The hottest items at Target and elsewhere are knockoffs of the same styles. I bought a bright pink “Lululemon-esque” top at Target the other day and was full of lots of self-congratulation for the “bargain” until I saw three other people wearing the same top in the same color the next day.

Why do we all want to look the same?

On one hand, I’m completely horrified that my adult consumer habits are no different from the ones I had in junior high. On the other hand, going far out of my way to establish a unique sense of style as some sort of “I’m an individual” statement feels painfully time-consuming. I have neither the interest in fashion nor the time to scour the town and the internet for items that reflect “me.”

So friends and friends of Gigi, knowing how some of my choices are easily swayed by what everyone else is doing, how do I teach my kids to think for themselves? And am I the only one who remembers the stuff I “had to” own way back when?

Nina Badzin is a writer and blogger living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. You can find her blogging and tweeting about writing, reading, parenting, and more at,Twitter at @NinaBadzin,and on Facebook.


Alison October 24, 2012 at 5:00 am

Oh Nina, I wish YOU could teach ME.

I’ve always been one to buck the trend, do the opposite. I wear stuff that’s out of fashion. And I stay away from things that are popular on purpose. I don’t ride the bandwagon. I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s not something I think about. But I’m not sure I know how to teach my kids to be themselves. By example is what I’m aiming for. But we’ll see.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 9:52 am

Hi Alison,

I think you’re right about the example being what they see and sometimes I worry about that. However, I think it takes another sort of effort to purposely stay away from trends and I’m not sure I’m up for it.


Lindsey October 24, 2012 at 5:50 am

I love this post. I wish I had some answers here, but I don’t; only the same questions over and over again. For me it was the drop-waisted dresses with white and colorful stripes in grade school, and Benetton sweatshirts too, and pin-striped jeans. Ah!

Nina October 24, 2012 at 9:53 am


I met you ONE TIME and I could (I know from pics too) that you are one of those people with true style. If I had that flair, I would just go with it. But I don’t, and I don’t have the patience to develop one.

Susi October 24, 2012 at 6:09 am

Hi Nina. I grew up in communist East-Germany before the wall fell and we didn’t have the newest fashions or name brands. I think, in a way it’s helped me deal with the always wanting the latest styles and such. I admire it, yes, sometimes covet it but I really don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m a jeans and T-shirt type gal and I usually can be found at Old Navy or Target… no mall shopping for me. I also find that it helps that my kids wear school uniforms. And I noticed my middle child has a very eclectic style… she does her own thing. Which I love. :)

Nina October 24, 2012 at 9:58 am

Get this . . . my kids go to private parochial school and they don’t wear uniforms. How tragic is that? It really bothers me, but it’s a Jewish school and it’s not like there’s a Jewish school on every corner where I live.

Thanks for sharing the story of your background. That’s good perspective!

Amber October 24, 2012 at 6:18 am

My mother was a thespian in high school and was an interesting combo of good girl and free spirit. My father was in a Latin band and has always been too cool for the cool kids – without trying to be.

Raising their five kids, I think some of my mother’s free spiritedness and my father’s innate coolness, combined with being way too poor to ask for the latest anything, helped with teaching us to be individuals.

That doesn’t mean my brothers didn’t beg mom to shop somewhere other than Kmart at a certain point. Despite having our moments of wanting to fit in through our choices, I’d say 4/5 of us as adults are pretty individual in most of what we do.

I think the important thing is which choices we stay firm on and which we allow to be swayed.

(so happy to discover KludgyMom through your post, Nina!)

Nina October 24, 2012 at 9:59 am

Thanks for sharing your comment here, Amber. And now that you’re self-hosting it’s the perfect time to discover Gigi.

TJ October 24, 2012 at 6:35 am

I would think that it’s okay to have some of the things that everyone else has, as long as it’s because YOU like it and it makes you happy, regardless if everyone else likes it or not. Some things, though, you should choose because it’s right, not because everyone likes it. I guess that I would try to teach my kids the difference between the two. And if they started putting trends above what’s truly important, I guess I would try to give them experiences that show how little trends matter. Maybe they need to see how many people have very little to eat or have no place to live.

But then again, this is all pretty theoretical for me, since I don’t have kids. As a middle school teacher, I have so much respect for parents who work hard to actually raise their kids well. Mad props to you, Nina! =)

Nina October 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

I totally like the stuff! But I’m aware that I only know of it all because I see it everywhere! Turns out I’m okay with that, but I think it’s good to be aware of it.

Susan October 24, 2012 at 7:28 am

Ok…so what do you say to the girl who had the trendy items but clearly a year or two after everyone else!!! I use to have to BEG my mom to get me the latest item and by the time she gave in, everyone was on to the next thing! Having been that kid, I would say there is a balance to be struck. Maybe that balance is teaching our kids values and helping them to decide if the thing they “have to have” fits in with their values. And of course, picking our battles as parents is always critical. I would probably choose to ignore the pigtail issue (since it is free after all!) but ask my kid why it is so important to them to own the latest item and how they feel about that reason.

And I will admit, to this day, I often covet the items that others have ie: Lululemon but I “usually” pick an alternative (if you consider Athleta an alternative! I guess if my mom’s goal was to encourage individuality she succeeded–sort of!

Nina October 24, 2012 at 11:55 am

Okay, well if price is the issue on this one, Athleta is not an alternative. But if you want your stuff to look slightly (really is just slightly) different, then you’re good.

And . . . we live in Minneapolis where all of us are behind by two years. If you grew up here, maybe it would be four. 😉 Just kidding. I think you’re completely right about balance. I do that with myself as well. If I have to spend too much time and energy making a point to ignore a trend I think it’s just as much of a waste of time as chasing one. If that makes sense!?

Angela October 24, 2012 at 7:29 am

Ha! Just last weekend, I headed to the mall to buy ski lift tickets at the ski expo. Thought I would do a little shopping while I was there. But after an hour or so, I was ready to move to a cabin in the woods and write my manifesto!
I wanted some new clothes but became so annoyed with all the people looking the same. Tall boots (which I’m wearing now btw) cross-body purses (that I would buy if it fit my laptop). Same, same, sameness. And expensive!
I tried a second-hand store to see if that would make me feel better. But, no. I don’t know the answer. But, human people do desire to conform. This seems to be a fact. An uncomfortable one. But a fact nonetheless. Thanks for sharing your conflict. You are not alone.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I have your second hand store piece saved on my Twitter favorites right now so I can get to it. Can’t wait to see what happened!

Shary October 24, 2012 at 7:51 am

I also don’t have any kids, so I don’t have to worry about setting a good example. But when it comes to shopping for clothes, I think it would be a challenge to find things that aren’t at least copies of the latest styles unless you shop at very high end boutiques or resale stores. If you feel comfortable in your clothes, you can focus on being yourself and I think it’s how you behave that really matters.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Seriously, that is the conclusion I came to in my mind, but I’m not sure I articulated it well in the post. Thank you for stating it so well here!

Carrie @Tempo Life Coaching October 24, 2012 at 8:08 am

I have to admit that I LOVE Lululemon. Love, love, love! I don’t love it because they are trendy. I love that the clothes fit me, are comfortable, and last forever. I’ll wear Lulu forever if they stay around forever. Does that make me trend setter? I don’t think so. It makes me someone who is wearing something trendy because it works for me. I don’t buy the same style at Target in this instance because it’s not necessarily the style that I love, it’s the product itself.

Given that, I do struggle internally about whether I’m fitting in, although I don’t worry enough to make a change…ha! I have my own style and pretty much stick to it. It’s neither to fit in nor to be rebellious. It just is. THIS is what I hope to teach my kids…dress, shop, enjoy what YOU like, not what everyone else does. But, what we like is often shifted by what is around us.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm

YES, exactly: “But, what we like is often shifted by what is around us.” You said it perfectly. I would never wear something I don’t like, but to pretend what I like hasn’t been influenced by what I see would be dishonest.

molly October 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

Nina, you always have such thoughtful posts.

I think this speaks more to the choices we make (or allow kids to make) with regards to fashion, too. In grade school or junior high, I played sports that I was terrible at and played flute even though I’m ton deaf, because all my friends were doing it. Did this harm me? No. And they were the activities available to kids my age. When I got to high school, I joined the debate and forensics teams even though my friends thought it was dorky, and I didn’t care because I genuinely loved the activity. Now, regardless of whether I still had to have Lucky Jeans and Doc Martens and Coach bags (all of which I rocked with pink hair and a nose ring) the fashion choices aren’t what made me who I am, but the debate and forensics…those experiences stayed with me. So that’s when I think it’s important to help kids make the right choices and put a foot down if they won’t do something they love, whether it’s Bible study or horseback riding or chess team just because the “cool” kids aren’t doing it.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Love knowing more about you, Molly! And this is great advice. Pink hair! Who knew?

Leigh Ann October 24, 2012 at 8:12 am

Like Alison said above, I’m not much of a bandwagon jumper. But it’s also in line with this line of yours: “I have neither the interest in fashion nor the time to scour the town and the internet for items that reflect “me.”” I do what I can, but right now I admit I’m pretty boring.

As for fostering individuality, here’s my take. I think that some kids inherently have that wired into them, and it doesn’t necessarily have as much to do with us (concerning fashion choices, not general thinking for themselves). Kids want to belong, and having and doing what your friends have and do is a big part of that. We kind of forget that as adults because we’ve hopefully grown into our own a bit by now. But I do believe that the kids who can still buck the trend and have their own individual style at a young age are extremely unique, and it’s not as much because their parents urged them to be themselves. Does that make sense? Basically, don’t sell yourself short. it’s more important that you teach them to THINK for themselves at this age, and the individuality will follow.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I love what you said here, Leigh Ann. Thanks for continuing the conversation. I agree that thinking for themselves (on the more important things) is more important than the fashion choices. And there’s nothing wrong or unnatural about generally wanting to fit in. As Angela said above, we are wired that way.

Olga October 24, 2012 at 8:26 am

Nina, what a great topic! Really made me stop and think.

So I have a couple of comments. One is from the perspective of an evolutionary psychologist (not that I am one but I am reading a good book on the topic at the moment which hopefully qualifies me). Men are the ones who need to stand out to attract females, so from an evolutionary point of view it is much easier for men to be “individual” when it comes to appearances. Hence, many ungodly choices we observe our partners displaying so very often.

But my personal take on this is very simple. It takes guts, creativity, and EXPERIENCE to be an individual. And there is a difference between being an individual and a “rebel”. So I think we have to give kids time to find themselves before we can expect them to parade (and defend) who they are for all to see.

Lastly, individuality can come through in many different ways. Which might explain why some people with very unconventional points of view might still be clad in Uggs and skinny jeans.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm

This is great, Olga! Such a good point re: individual vs. rebel. And I hope and think that last paragraph would describe me. Just the other night at dinner a few friends told me I overthink EVERYTHING. Well, that’s what I do. It’s part of what makes me ME.

Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson October 24, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hi Nina! So glad you got in on this series.

I am not this girl. My parents let me have some things, but they were very clear that we did not have money to burn. So was I allowed to get the necessary leotards for gymnastics competitions? Yes. Did I have my jazz shoes? Absolutely.

But those expensive V-neck sweaters from The Limited. Um, not so much. And one Swatch was enough. And no, I was told I didn’t need the Guess jeans that cost (gasp) $68. Levis would do. And so that’s what I wore.

I guess this stuff has carried over. I am soooo not interested in looking like everyone. I HATE how everyone in my town carries Vera Bradley bags. The mall is not my friend. I shop at consignment stores and Marshall’s. I don’t want to look like everyone else. Omigosh! The thought is horrifying to me. I like to put together and wear crazy combinations.

Perhaps this is why my son doesn’t care about what people wear. He cares about who people are. I just thought it was a boy thing, but maybe it does go deeper. Because I really don’t care. I love my cowboy boots and I will wear them with a bikini or a dress or leggings. Even if my husband says they look ridiculous. Now that it is cold, I wear hats all day long. Seriously, my students know that once the hat is on, it stays on. It’s my thing.

If I have a uniform, it is a black turtleneck and a pair of jeans. And my sparkly glasses. Always my sparkly glasses. You know, or else I would fall down.

But you make me feel good about the lack of preoccupation we have with brands and stuff in our home. We just don’t do that in this house. Maybe it’s because I don’t like clutter. I don’t collect. Maybe it’s because I’ve traveled enough to make it difficult for me to justify spending vast sums of money on a pair of jeans that will be out of season in a year.

There is that stereotype of the Jewish American Princess, and maybe I was subconsciously fighting against that. I am pretty sure that people who know me would say that I am soooo not that girl. What girl would want to be? Yuck.

I don’t think this is just about the stuff we wear of covet. I think it is about our attitudes about the world. Do you believe you are good enough without the stuff, stripped bare of the labels? Do you believe you can be enough — even if you don’t drink alcohol at a party where everyone else is drinking? I never felt (too) compelled to try to fit in there either. I just said, no thank you — and then I became the world’s most desired designated driver. I think I just believed I was enough.

My son thinks the popular kids are mean and superficial. He’s probably right. Because isn’t this the stuff the mean kids focus on? he stuf people wear and have? The friends I have in real life are beyond this stuff.

But I am reading that many people still want. They want. They want. Thank you for showing me how fortunate I truly am. Because I do not want. I am completely satisfied in my no-name duds. (But please, let this computer last.) 😉

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Oh yes, we love our Macs.

I think it’s awesome that you have never felt influenced by this stuff, but I think it’s too much to assume that anyone who has that stuff is shallow. Just like you can’t assume that someone who doesn’t have that stuff is anything in particular (creative, “nice,” whatever.) It sort of works both ways. Neither having it or wanting it, or not having it or not wanting guarantees anything about the person on the inside.

Jennifer October 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

I think there is a delicate balance between the desire to be like everyone else and being unique for unique’s sake. Do YOU like your Luluemon-esque wardrobe? Would you wear it anyway? Do you pick it because that is what everyone else is wearing or because it is comfortable and versatile? Intention is sometimes more important than outcome.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

Oh! I love it! What I am asking myself, however, is if I would love it if I were the first to happen upon it. You know what I mean? Do I love something because it’s cute, or do I THINK it’s cute because I’ve grown so used to seeing the same stuff everywhere. Chicken/egg.

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice October 24, 2012 at 9:08 am

Honestly, I think my kid is better at bucking the trends than I am, by FAR.

I grew up in a snotty little suburb, never quite fit in, and remember being taunted for not wearing the “right” name brand of jeans. Tears erupted daily. Now I still struggle with my lack of fitting in, and I will spend hours trying to decide what to wear to an event/meetup in hopes that people will see me as “just right.” Granted, I’m not a slave to name brands and I assert much of my personalty into my style, but I still allow it to matter far too much.

My kid is the rebel. He insisted on long hair when he was four and kept it no matter how much crap kids and relatives threw at him. He doesn’t care what he wears, and he tells other kids how cool it is to read.

I’m gonna keep him. And learn from him.

And I totally lusted after a pair of Farlow jeans back in the day, too. Never got them.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

SO glad someone else remembers the Farlows. I should have kept them . . . they were basically skinny jeans. 😉

So nice to meet you here by the way. Looking forward to checking out your blog.

Jackie Cangro October 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

The old and terrible maxim “do as I say not as I do” comes to mind. Yikes. I feel like I’m becoming my mother.

Andrea Kasper October 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

Nina – this is a fabulous post!!!

One of my favorite sayings these days is, I don’t have to reconcile all of my contradictions:) That said, I think part of raising our kids is raising them to negotiated a myriad of complex and challenging messages, concepts and life choices. While we encourage individualism we also encourage collaboration and compromise. While I appreciate that clothing can be a mark of individualism, believing that our consumer choices are what makes us true to our individuality says more about marketing success then individuality:)

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

This makes me feel better, Andrea! :) You are so smart, and I’m not just saying that because we’re family.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I feel better, Andrea. You’re so smart! And I’m not just saying that because we’re family.

Ruchi October 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

Oh my. This is a hot topic in my house (3 teens and 2 tweens). I have outlawed juicy, uggs, and north face. Why? Well, they’re overpriced, but also the brand names are on the OUTSIDE. For everyone to see. Ew.

And not that I’m immune to envy, but I do follow my own brand-addict rules. But I do like to get the latest look every now and again :)

And as far as my childhood… let’s just say huge oversized gap sweatshirts and LA Gear sneakers crossed my mind…

Thanks, Nina, for another thoughtful piece.

Nina October 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

Hi Ruchi! Love when you visit me. I agree that the stuff with the labels on the outside adds an ick factor.

Lisa Pierson Weinberger October 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

Nina, this is a really interesting post and obviously a very important topic. I actually have a slightly different take on this issue (which I write as I sit in my favorite pair of lululemon pants). I had all of the things in high school that you listed in your post — it was actually a funny walk down memory lane. In college, when my work-study income didn’t afford me the name-brand things I wanted at the time, I shopped at bargain stores in order to get them. Does that make me materialistic? Probably. But shallow? I don’t think so.

My mom has always taken a lot of pride in her appearance, and I definitely modeled that at a young age. She always used to tell my sister and me that “looking the part was half the battle,” and I’ve found as a professional woman that she is not so off-base. When I look put together, I feel more confident. And when I feel good about myself, I am much more able to go out and speak my mind and stand up for the things that I believe in. I think there is a huge difference between following the pack when it comes to things that don’t really matter (like hairstyles and clothes) as opposed to the things that do (like our values, our morals, etc.).

So, I guess I think that if your children stand up to the class bully, or include the shy child in their playdates, or spend their free time helping people who are less fortunate, I don’t think it matters what they wear while they’re out in the world being good people. I think that an overemphasis on material things — even to prove a good point — can also miss the point.

So enjoy your lululemon vest. You’re a great person while you’re wearing it. And that’s what your kids will model, learn, and remember.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Lisa, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this comment. This right here is what I was trying to say in the end: “I think there is a huge difference between following the pack when it comes to things that don’t really matter (like hairstyles and clothes) as opposed to the things that do (like our values, our morals, etc.).”

I DO think that people can over think the whole thing and go out of their way to buck trends, as if that guarantees some moral high ground. I agree that liking certain things might be “materialistic” (guilty!) but that doesn’t make me shallow. I get tired of the sort of people who assume that if you can afford something or if you wear something then you have nothing to offer the world. If only people were so simple to peg, right?

Sara Grambusch October 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

This is a tough one. Are you supposed to indulge them when they come home and say “Tomorrow I am going to be Batman?” I don’t know. I think as long as you really listen to whatever they are saying, about anything, they will end up being just who they are when they know that somehow is acknowledging them. Too deep? More importantly, that pink vest is super cute.

Megan (Best of Fates) October 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Thankfully, I don’t think I do shape my wardrobe around what’s cool or popular. But that’s mainly because I’m far too lazy to figure out what that is. You know, by doing taxing activities like reading a magazine or paying attention in public. So, maybe my problem is worse than unintentional clothing copying.

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

My terrible photography skills did not do the vest justice. It’s RED!! :)

Nina October 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Oops, that was for Sara below!

Melissa Crytzer Fry October 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I think that kids ‘wanting what other kids have” is just part of growing up. They develop their individuality in different ways as they get older. Their ‘must have’ attitudes are more about fitting in, which is part of developing their character as well.

This is a clear indication of how freaking old I am, but it was Chic jeans when I was in fifth grade (and holy moly – I am glad I did not grow up in YOUR neighborhood. I still can’t afford Coach purses, Uggs and Lululemon and am pretty sure my mom would have laughed in my face at any such requests. Ha ha.)

Nina October 25, 2012 at 8:35 am

Melissa–it really was and still is a fancy place. I’m not saying I GOT all those things . . . but I certainly wanted them and got some as did many other people. You’re right that it was a hard place for people who were trying to “keep up with the neighbors” and what not. Never a worthwhile goal, of course.

florence fois October 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Nina, I might interject my mom’s favorite cliche … “If you friends jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, will you follow them?”

This was the canned response to what I “had” to have because all the other girls had whatever it was. Either way, I think the individuallity of the child is forged not so much in what they get or have. They will try to be carbon copies of each other and somewhere in college it irons out and they begin to imerge as fully indepedent thinkers (or at least it begins there). Worry not, the warm clay balls begin to form and grow away from trends and into their own likes and dislikes :)

Nina October 25, 2012 at 8:37 am

Cliche, perhaps, but so true and perfect here.

Heather October 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I wanted so badly to fit in in grade school and junior high, but my parents didn’t have the means to buy me the Esprit and Guess? jeans. I bought myself. Benetton sweatshirt with my own money and my mom made me return it. So I was unique in my sense of style, but I hated it. Sometimes I think the choice of fitting in or not, at least in instances like this, comes from having the financial security to do so. Some people don’t have the option to conform to what is popular, even if they want to.

And, as someone else mentioned, most people want to fit in, they just have to find the right group. What we’re conforming to is the rules set by the group we want to be a part of, or else we rebel by going against a particular group’s code. There are people who might try to stand out in suburbia by dyeing their hair black and wearing black lipstick, but then they choose to hang out with others who dress the same.

Nina October 25, 2012 at 8:40 am

Hi Heather! I think that times a little different than when we were younger in that there is a sameness to stuff from kmart, target, Costco to the high end. Production is fast, cheap, and while quality may not be the same, there is a sameness to the “look” at there. Look at the zillion different versions of Uggs for example. I wonder if that takes some of the pressure off or just makes it harder for parents to say no. Not sure! My kids are not really old enough to care about brands yet or even certain “looks.”

I love your point about the “alternative” look still having a sameness when they all land on the same “different” look. That is SO true.

angela October 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm

This is such a great post. I’ve had the window open, literally, all day because I wanted to write something meaningful about it. But now it’s time for me to go to bed, so meaningful might be stretching it a little.

I think really finding individuality in fashion is difficult, especially now when knock-offs are so easily made and brought into stores like Target. It streamlines fashion a bit.

And your list makes me laugh a little, because it’s so true. Even the things on it I didn’t actually own? They were the things I WANTED to own.

I hope I can help my kids keep their wonderful “self”-ness, even if they outwardly want the latest fashion trend.

Nina October 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

Angela, I like how you summed this up. I DO think ultimately the kids can have a “self” that is all theirs even if they’re in the same knock-off Uggs as many other kiddos.

So glad you liked the post enough to clutter up your screen with it all day. :)

Rivki Silver October 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Oversized flannels – yes! The memories! Honestly, most of my life I was a thrift-store shopper and my MO was “look as different as humanly possible.” But even then, I was conforming to non-conformity. You know what I mean?

I think that you can teach your children that conformity isn’t the end of the world if it’s a conscious decision, not just blind following. So you like lululemon stuff – so what? If you feel good in it, wear it. It doesn’t define you. Lots of times we feel better wearing things that are somewhat in style, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it isn’t owning us, that we’re not being driven by our desires.

Instill your values in your children, and teach them to think deeply and understand what’s right, and they will be individuals, even if they end up choosing mostly the same things as their peers. If they have that solid foundation, hopefully they’ll be able to stand out of the crowd when it really counts. And daven. That’s my plan, at least.

Great post, as usual. <3

Nina October 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I love this so much! Thank you, Rivki!

Laura @ Stroller Parking Only October 26, 2012 at 9:53 am

For what it’s worth, I think there’s a big difference between thinking for yourself, and dressing “uniquely””. Just because you dress like everyone else doesn’t mean you ARE like everyone else. (Obviously, you already know this.) Clothes don’t really reflect the kind of person you are. If they did, those other ladies wearing the Target shirts would be Nina Badzin carbon copies. Highly unlikely. Also, since the styles of various subcultures have become so mainstream, it’s virtually impossible to dress “differently” nowadays. And like you say, it’d be extraordinarily time consuming. That being said, I do feel kind of pathetic for coveting so many consumer goods (that everyone else has). It used to be clothes. Now it’s strollers. But also still clothes. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I remember back in the day when flannel was all the rage (funny how trends come full circle). And who could forget the chunky Steve Maddens? And what about the Return to Tiffany & Co bracelets? I wouldn’t be surprised if kids were still getting those as Bat Mitzvah gifts.

alarnarosegray October 28, 2012 at 12:23 am

I can only speak from the memory of growing up and not fitting in to the ‘norm’ in any way – not by choice of my own, but of my parents. Personally, I think being allowed to fit in superficially would have helped me to have more confidence in my different opinions, not the opposite. It’s one thing to be a freak, it’s another thing to LOOK like one as well!! Maybe kids need to conform, while they figure out what they do and don’t think? So I wouldn’t sweat the outer coverings, but focus more on encouraging individuality of thought. That way, the issue of hypocrisy is resolved and you can go on dressing how you do GUILT FREE! (And for what it’s worth, I think you’re living a great example) :)

Nina October 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Thank you so much Alarna! I appreciate that!

Jolina Petersheim October 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I have actually become painfully aware of this “man pleasing” aspect of my personality just over the past month when I made a decision that really ticked some people off. It is not fun to be ourselves, yet if we are to teach our kids to do the same, I guess we must lead by example. Until then, I will hide behind my Lululemon frock.

Joe Sottile October 31, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I have written a self- help eBook for tweens that you might be interested in recommending to your readers: 101 SECRETS! A Backpack of Inspiration and Hope for Tweens.

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The 101 SECRETS! are designed to provide inspiration and hope for all tweens by a teacher of thirty-three years. Joe Sottile has taught over 1,000 students, and many of them claim that he was their “favorite teacher” because Joe knew and demonstrated these secrets, the power of words, and humor in the classroom every day.

If you’re interested in a free copy, please let me know.

Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) November 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Because there isn’t any new words of wisdom to add with all of these great comments but I agree with Leigh Ann and Ruchi.

The only thing new I can offer is the lessons of my own experience. I’m was not a “fit-in girl” myself. I don’t remember wanting anything except a decent pair of jeans and a nice pair of tennis shoes. (Z-Cavaricci/Guess and K-Swiss). I think my mom was more worried about my style and having nice things than I was. I don’t know why but I still don’t covet many things.

I’ve never owned a Coach purse and can walk by their outlet store without a glance. My husband bought me a Lululemon gift card for my birthday this year and I was sort of pissed. Mind you I love the cute tennis skirt I got, but it was ridiculous money spent. I try to teach my kids practicality and buying a pair of boots because they are a certain brand name is just, well…stupid. If my daughter wants warm boots with fur inside, I will find a nice pair for a fourth of the price of UGGs. (Should be spelled UGHs if you ask me!) I think explaining things in terms of pracitcality and being smart with our money has helped our kids be comfortable with themselves.

Leading by example seems to speak volumes to my kids.

Great post and fun to see you around the bonfire! XO to you, my Nina Badina

Galit Breen November 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Great post, you two!

I love the way you took this from our own habits and wants to what we model and preach to our kids!


Our kids are definitely getting to the age where they’re noticing -ad often asking for- what others have.

Maybe being unique in fashion isn’t as important to me as the bigger things – how you think/act/the stances you take?

Love the post and the conversation, girl!

Devora May 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Hi Nina
Thanks to you I have become a pure baare addict !!
I am struggling with”think I need lulu lemon workout clothes”. I looked deep inside myself to figure out why I felt that need – I felt the need to look right and fit in! I stand out enough working out wih my skirt ontop of my leggings.
In Refrence to the kids – (which is easy for me to preach)
That we do need to let them think on their own and incourage them to do what they want when it is correct and safe . I don’t believe in in advertising for company’s that display their logos on the outside – they are not paying me to advertise ! Yet with lululemon which is a small logo it is something I believe I will loose the battle with !!

Cat Woman June 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

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