Too Cool for School

Friday, August 21, 2009


Thomas....not so cool at nearly 6....still OK if you're in preschool, apparently.




These were the "it" thing when I was in 4th grade.



Nick's new lunchbox. Great choice!



Ben is getting a new backpack for preschool (3 half days a week)




School begins here in early September, so it's crunch time for back to school shopping.


Nick has been asking for a Transformers lunchbox. I was going to get him one. Nick doesn't know much about Transformers. He doesn't even have any. He much prefers to collect dinosaur items and read books. He still enjoys Thomas (for non-parents, Thomas is that blue talking train).

If a lunchbox would make him feel happy, surely I would just buy it. Why not? While we were looking at the various lunchboxes at Target, three different boys put Transformers lunchboxes in their cart. Three kids in about 2 minutes. Apparently Transformers are cool.

I started noticing last year in kindergarten how kids already are concerned about fitting in--whether it be the brand of sneakers, toys they're interested in, etc. One day Nick came home from school last year and announced he was collecting Bakugan toys. I asked him what Bakugans were. He said, "I don't know, but Joshua and some of the other kids have them."

I like to think that I am raising happy, confident kids. I was never self-confident as a child. Truth be told, the school years for me were miserable. I was shy. I spent middle school as an ugly duckling and my parents were going through a miserable divorce. I pretty much just wanted to either be an adult or go back to being a little kid. I have tried since the boys were little to instill the confidence I never possessed until I was much older.

It concerns me when my 5 year old says to me that he shouldn't play with his trains anymore, even though he enjoys them, because Thomas is "not cool anymore." Why should it matter?

Nick's birthday party is a couple weekends away and he told me he wants either a Transformers or Bakugan party since they're the it thing these days. He has only asked for Transformers and Bakugan toys as gifts. He does have a couple Bakugan toys--I don't know what they are, but they look like tiny plastic balls that tranform and are worth about 50 cents.

I don't remember being 4 or 5 and being so concerned about the opinions of others. When I was older it was one thing, but not at this age. I remember being in 4th grade when that feeling crept in. Being cool at that time meant having the most Lisa Frank stickers from Fluff & Stuff at the mall in your sticker book. Not these days.

I once was discussing this with my friend whose daughter was made to feel badly for wearing pants over fairy dresses to preschool. Keep in mind this is a very feminine little girl with long, bouncy hair and a sweet smile. Other girls picked on her for wearing pants and said she wasn't a girl. This is at age 4. Four. I know we're not alone in this. If you're a mom you may be going through the same issues.

Whether it be about toys or clothes or lunchboxes, it seems to begin earlier and earlier.

We've even had the issue with sneakers. Nick has a curvature of the bone between his hip bone and knee. This makes him, at times, run and walk with his foot turned in a bit. Wearing the right sneakers are important for him, and Stride Rite happens to make ones that fit him perfectly. When we bought them he loved them. He gave them the old thumb's up.

Apparently those aren't cool, even in his own eyes. Ben needed new sneakers and I found a great pair of Sketchers at Marshalls for $15. If you've purchased these before, you know that's a bargain. When Nick saw Ben wearing "cool" sneakers, he kept begging for news ones "made by the cool sneaker company." I asked why they're "cool" and he told me that most of the boys in his class wear the sneakers with the "S" on them.

All I want is the best for the boys. I want them to feel as loved as they truly are. I want them to be happy and well adjusted. I want them to know that it is OK to like things that aren't considered popular.

I was really proud of Nick today. I was on the LL Bean website today ordering Ben a backpack for preschool (Nick has had his for 2 years and it still looks and feels new). Nick saw a picture for a lunchbox. I clicked on the red lunch box with a shark on it. Red is his favorite color. Sharks are a favorite animal of his. I was thinking that it's too bad LL Bean lunchboxes aren't on a first grader's list of cool things. He then asked if it would be OK if he could have this lunchbox instead of the Transformers one.

Would I be OK with it? I was thrilled!

He said he loves it and will carry it until he is a "really big kid." The fact that he would ask for this lunchbox--a truly different choice--with confidence and without reservations gives me hope that he may accept and embrace who he is even more as we start this new school year.
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