The Pressure to Conform or Not

This morning I asked my son what day it was for week of special dress up days at the high school. I had seen that they had a theme for each day of the week this week, from the 17th through 21st celebrating the season.

For example: Tuesday was Favorite Winterland Clothing Day. This meant scarves, vest, layers, boots, etc.

His response, “I don’t know, and I really don’t care! I don’t think any of that is necessary!”

I had to laugh. I guess I half expected this response, as it is the same I would have gotten from both of his brothers.  All three of our boys are fiercely independent. It comes from having fiercely independent parents.  Having attended an undergraduate university in the 80’s with a huge Greek Life presence on campus, we both completed our degrees without succumbing to the pressure of joining a sorority or fraternity on our small campus.  In other words, we, and others like us, became known as GDI’s or G–D–Independents! We were proud of the lack of our need to conform to what so many others around us were doing and continue to be proud of that tradition.  Obviously, it has rubbed off on our boys.

I can hear some of the responses to this post already, such as, “Where’s their school spirit?”  and “What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they want to participate.”

Firstly, all of our sons, but especially our youngest, the one still in high school with whom I had the conversation with this morning, have/had school spirit. He regularly supports others by attending their activities such as swim meets, gymnastic meets, girls volleyball, and soccer, when able.  He cheers for our teams to win.  He helps other students with tutoring and has done so for years, well before the recent tutoring requirement bestowed upon him for being a National Honor Society member. So, school spirit?  Yes, he has some.


I think it is just that our boys have not felt motivated by the need to do what everyone else is doing. They cannot see the need for these actions or “special days.” Some do feel this need or even get excited about these special days.  But, they do not.  So, they typically do not participate. They are not judging those that do, they just quietly choose not to. Their focus is on completing work, and other parts of the school day. Maybe, their motivation for school is more internal than external.  At least, that is what I’d like to think.  Maybe, it’s that they’re just not organized enough to think ahead as to how they would participate.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have a problem with the high school or any other school for that matter, scheduling special, festive, dress up events. Those that want to participate, do, and those that don’t want to participate don’t. It’s just that not all students want to take part in these types of events.   This has been an age-old conundrum.  So, to answer the second question that I can imagine being posed, there’s nothing wrong with my boys or others who don’t participate. They just choose not to.

Maybe some of this comes from humility.  None of my boys have ever been really happy conforming to a suggestion of what to wear, especially if everyone else is participating.  They do what is expected and participate in what is required but if it is an optional event concerning dressing up, down, or sideways, you can be sure they will not be part of it. They help others, they do well on their school work, and excel in music, technology, art, or sports as their abilities allow them.  But, conforming to an optional behavior, especially one of dressing up in prescribed attire, is rare.

In fact, I’d be shocked at this point if he had come out today donning my Santa hat (today’s dress up prompt was “Santa’s Workshop.”  My youngest’s ignorance of what was going on this week as part of pre-holiday festivities was an expected response. His head is elsewhere, like on the oil painting he wants to finish before Tuesday, and working two extra shifts this weekend at work.  I think it’s okay that he doesn’t conform to the designated dress up day.  It does not mean he’s the Grinch, just not interested in wearing what someone else wants him too.

We applaud his independence, and realize that the apples don’t fall far from the tree!


One thought

  1. I applaud this independence too. A different dress-up for each day of the week sounds a bit excessive to me. Not least because not every family can afford to fit their child out in novelty outfits, surely? I have noticed in the last few years there seems to be more co-opting at Christmas, whether it is the Christmas jumper day, or the Elf-on-the-Shelf or the Secret Santa gifts. It seems more driven by consumerism than genuine community spirit. It is good not to always be swept along by the latest trend and to blindly follow. Good for your boys.

    Liked by 1 person

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