By six months old, the minute my son could sit up on his own, all he wanted to do was look at books. By age three, he’d taught himself to read and would spend play dates in the corner, turning page after page, drowning out the noise, while the rest of the kids ran amok and jumped on couch cushions. By kindergarten, he was reading chapter books and doing algebra problems for fun.
Loud kids stressed him out. Kids who misbehaved stressed him out. And we always, always, had to follow the rules — rules in school, rules in Monopoly, rules in building a LEGO kit. Everything symmetrical. Everything in order.
So yes, we knew our son was “different” from pretty early on, and no, we weren’t surprised when he had only one or two friends throughout childhood. Most of the boys his age were more interested in throwing a ball around or pushing each other into the pool. My kid wanted to read an encyclopedia about the human body and/or talk about the American Revolution.
He didn’t get invited to many birthday parties, nor did he invite a lot of kids to his. My son has always been content to give his time and energy to one or two close friends who embrace his “weird”, who get him for who he is, and who think delving into a Minecraft world or playing an in-depth strategy style board game for hours on end is the best way to spend a Friday night.
If he has that, he’s a very happy kid.
My daughter’s path to “weird”, on the other hand, has not been a straight line like her brother’s. For the first decade or so of her life, she was very similar to her peers in interests, in social skills, and in friendship circles. The birthday party invites came in droves and her circle of friends was vast and diverse. She was friends with sporty kids and girly girls, and the outgoing and the shy. Everyone loved her and she loved being with everyone in return.
Until the last year — as she turned 11 — and everything started to change.
It seems that when the first stages of puberty hit and we began careening into that strange, unpredictable “tween” year tunnel, my social butterfly pink-and-purple-loving daughter changed quickly. And drastically. She was still a happy kid and still a kind kid, but her personal style preferences became more … unique. I began noticing when I picked her up from school that she wasn’t dressing like most of the other girls. While they were still wearing pink leggings and dresses, she’d already moved on to mismatched knee socks and overalls. While they were wearing their hair long, she chopped hers off into a pixie cut — the only girl in 5th grade to do so. And now, when they’re in Lululemons and crop tops, she’s in oversized t-shirts and Converse sneakers.
And through all these changes, I also noticed something else: her circle of friends got smaller. That doesn’t mean she had a falling out with old friends. And in fact she’s still invited to quite a few birthday parties with girls she doesn’t talk to as often any more, because she’s still the coolest, kindest kid around. But I’ve noticed who she seeks out the most — and, like her brother, it’s kids who are “weird” like her. It’s kids who get her obsession with turtles and bees and frogs. Kids who love to read and write and don’t really care about flirting with boys and would rather buy their clothes at a thrift store than somewhere expensive and trendy.
So now, at 13 and 11, two of my three kids have fully embraced their “weird.” They are all in with their own styles, their own interests, and they really don’t seem too concerned with what most of the kids in their grades are doing, wearing, or talking about.
And as their mom, I think it’s freaking fantastic.
Because honestly, what better way to live your life than on your own terms like this? What better way to grow up than feeling zero pressure to compete with other kids, or mold yourself into something you’re not so your peers will accept you? What better way to spend your summer than lost in a book or writing a story or creating your own board game instead of stressing about something another middle schooler posted on TikTok?
Do other kids make fun of my “weird” children? Yup. They’ve both told me so. But that hasn’t deterred either of them in the slightest. In fact, it seems that the older they get, the more they dig their heels into being exactly who they feel comfortable being. The more the hierarchy of “popular” kids versus “weird” kids gets solidified in middle school, the less they seem concerned with being in the first group and the more they revel being in the second.
Both of them have told me stories of unkind words and acts from the “popular” kids. And it’s heartbreaking to learn that nothing has changed since I was in school. That “mean girls” are still mean. That boys can still be jerks.
But despite any teasing or exclusion, my “weird” kids get up every day and live their lives doing what they love. My daughter often grabs a notebook and wanders down the street to sit under an apple tree to write in her journal and take notes on interesting plants she finds along the way. My son spends much of his time this summer in theater camp, followed by Minecraft, followed by poring through book after book after book.
They’re not in team sports. They are not in the “popular” group. And they’re not invited to every social event. But I can tell you, as their mom, my kids are happy and healthy and are living their best lives. And I couldn’t be prouder of them for staying true to their authentic selves.
My kids are beautifully, perfectly, and wonderfully weird. And I wouldn’t change them for the world.
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