When You Just Want to Fit In

In the fifth grade, Guess Jeans were the hottest item. Every popular kid had them. The dark denim with the triangle patch on the back pocket marked with the Guess ? screamed, “I FIT IN!”

Or at least my 11 year old mind thought so.

But I grew up in a practical, one-income home. I guess we were middle-class, but after a rough period when my dad didn’t have a job, we opted for a frugal life. Guess Jeans weren’t frugal.

I had cute clothes, a name brand scattered in when I could find it on clearance, but mostly, I wanted what I didn’t have.

My mom must have sensed my pain because she bought me a knock-off pair of Guess Jeans. In passing they almost looked the same with the mock triangle pocket patch. But they said something like Gasp without the ?

I wasn’t impressed. For some reason, the faux pair only increased my desire to wear a ridiculously overpriced pair of jeans I was sure to grow out of immediately.

So, I did something I’ll never forget: I took a red sharpie marker and wrote Guess ? over the word Gasp.

Of course, I didn’t achieve anything except an awful-looking pair of jeans.

And so I wore a long shirt over them until I grew out of them. Because I didn’t want my hard-working parents to know how badly I wanted to fit in.

I’m raising a twelve year old now. I think twelve is the new teen, only without all the privileges. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I can’t imagine how it would have felt to have us as parents growing up…we’ve always tried to raise our kids counter-cultural, but I’m afraid the status quo has shifted by running a non-profit from our garage, going to Africa every summer and occasionally being featured on Channel 11 News. And while we don’t apologize for it, I know somedays it has to be a little awesome and a lot hard when you’re in the sixth grade.

Because if I remember correctly, everything is hard in sixth grade.

I see it there, her desire to fit in. I recognize it and I understand it. I watch her fight against it, bend to it, balance it.

And more than anything, I get it. I don’t always fit in either.  Most days it’s a little awesome and a lot hard.  But I’m nearly 40 now and I understand that fitting in is fleeting. It’s always changing and I don’t want to keep up.

I’m okay with me. I’m thankful for my life, the journey we are on.

Last night, I told my daughter about my fake Guess jeans and we laughed.

She pulled off her knock-off Ugg boots and we talked into the night.

 


Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Cute :-) You were not alone, I never owned a pair of Guess jeans but wanted too so bad! By the way, $50 in 1983 has the buying power of $113 today. Those were expensive jeans!

    I wonder if the fitting in is more of a struggle for females. My 6th grader is a boy & could care less about fitting in. I was a mess at that age.

    I LOVE what your family is doing & your kids will benefit BIG time!

  2. 2

    says

    I remember working so hard and saving for a LONG time for the ONE pair of Guess jeans that I owned. Although I think I found “seconds” at some discount store that had some defect I could never find. It’s the only time I remember a name brand being that important to me. It’s a hard balance but I’ve told my kids the same thing. If it’s that important to them they can save up THEIR money.

  3. 3

    says

    I did the same thing with my Walmart “Keds” – colored a blue rectangle on the back of them. I never got the “real” keds (or guess jeans, for that matter) so I get it.

    Funny, my last blog post was also about fitting in and how I mostly never did. I hope my girls have it easier than I did, but not in the spoiled brat way… more in the “they don’t need to seek counseling” way. ;)

  4. 5

    says

    It’s always an eye-opener when you talk to someone you grew up with and you share memories of how alone you felt… and they confide they felt the exact same way. Sort of makes you wish you could go back and impart some words of wisdom and hope on your pre-teen self….

    As for Guess jeans, I had similar issues involving Izods – to this day, I hate the Preppy Handbook!

  5. 6

    says

    YES! I remember the Guess days too! Those years are hard whether you have the latest trend or not. Hang in there! I’ll keep reading so I’ll be prepared for when I get there with my daughter. =)

  6. 7

    says

    Oh, I remember trying to fit in. It was a painful time in my life…never did fit it. I think even as adults a certain part of us desires to fit in. May we always remember that “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears God is to be praised”.

  7. 8

    says

    I think it’s awesome that you acknowledge that a desire to fit in, and we’re not necessarily just talking Guess jeans, is a part of life at any age. It’s hard to live in the world and yet not be of it. My parents were a little more tough love, and their whole response was, “It’s always going to be this way. Get over it.” While I love them to pieces I think I could have used someone to flop on the bed and tell me they struggled, too.

  8. 9

    says

    6th grade is hard! My kids are all little so I can’t imagine parenting the emotions of a 6th grade girl, but I’ll find out soon enough! You’re doing a wonderful job! Kingdom building is hard work. You’re training up a future generation of Christ-followers, and who knows, maybe missionaries?! But its purposeful work. It’s blessed work. And I’m glad you share it with the world here at We are That Family.
    I’ve been meaning to ask where at in Kenya the Mercy House is located. We’re headed to Kijabe, Kenya in July 2012 for two years (possibly for the long haul but two years to start). We’ll be at RVA ministering to missionary kids but there are opportunities to get involved with other ministries. And I’ve just been thinking about it.

    • 9.1

      says

      Oh, you will love Kijabe! (Of course, you might have been there already, huh?) RVA is such a special place. (I served for two years in Kenya with the IMB after college, and many of our MK’s went to school there.) The Mercy House (which I was thrilled to stop by and get to meet Maureen in June) is in Karen, on the other side of Nairobi. If my memory serves correctly, from RVA it’s probably about a 30-45 minute longer journey that just traveling to Nairobi. (in decent traffic, that is! could be much longer on any given day…) I just popped over to your blog and will be following it…I love reading blogs from Kenya, especially those of missionaries, and will be praying for you!

  9. 10

    says

    Kristen, you are a wonderful mother. Your children are blessed by two wonderful parents. I know it may sound cheesy, but I look up to your experience and I treasure the ideas and advice you share. Thanks!!

  10. 11

    says

    I so remember the *guess* jeans days. My husband and I talk about those days a lot. His mom used to buy him the imitation polo guy shirts. Being a kid and trying to find yourself is hard. But you are doing such an amazing job with your kids and what you are teaching them. How you live by example is going to make all those hard years so much easier.

  11. 12

    Debra says

    Oh how I remember those days!!! We were one income family and my dad was a pastor! So I understand all to well not being able to “have” or “fit in”! As an adult I still struggle too. But God is gently reminding me that I don’t need to “fit in” with the world! I also have a 12 year old in the sixth grade but a boy. He’s starting to get to this point of fitting in and I’m in the same boat —- trying to find that balance!
    Thanks for sharing your heart. I so admire your honestly and openess to share. So thankful after so many years to reconnect and be able to read your blog! You inspire me! Have a blessed day!

  12. 14

    says

    Oh, I hear this.

    It’s one thing for Hubs and me to make counter-cultural decisions. We’ve got lots of living under our belts and have the maturity not to really care what others think. But to send our kids out from under our wings, and have them also live counter-culturally in junior high? I know it’s what they’re commanded to do, and I know God will equip them as part of the journey He has them on. I know that my children walking in obedience even (especially!) when it’s hard is just exactly what they need. I know they’re building up treasures in Heaven.

    But it’s still hard. And I think it’s important part of our relationship for me to acknowledge–OFTEN–that I get that. They need to hear that I am aware of the struggle–that I fought it at their age and still occasionally fight it today. “I understand that this is hard,” is a sentence spoken often in this house.

  13. 15

    Sheila says

    Funny b/c as I was reading the word that came to my mind was “Uggs Boots” – my 7th grade niece was dying for a pair for Christmas & my sister got her knockoffs (which look great btw). Yea, we had all knock offs too & turned out ok. You’re doing a good job – I’m not looking forward to those days…

  14. 16

    Melissa D says

    As a 40-year-old, I still struggle with wanting to fit in, wanting to do what the “other kids” are doing. And sometimes that struggle comes over minor, unimportant things like whether I drink coffee (I don’t) or being up on all the latest TV shows (don’t have cable – couldn’t watch most of them if I wanted to). And sometimes the struggle is over much more important things. Even though my brain knows that I do not have to have/like/do the same things as everyone else and that God loves me just as I am no matter what I wear/watch/eat, etc., the rest of me still has a hard time.

    Now that I have kids, including a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old daughter, I struggle with wanting them to fit in. And it doesn’t appear that either one of them could really care less. So often I have to remind myself not to go putting pressures on them that they don’t actually feel, just because I felt a particular way when I was their age.

    Thank you for the days like today where you bring up subjects like this. It allows people like me to take a step back and really think about what is important and what is not.

  15. 17

    says

    Oh I love this post. I see myself and my daughter so much. Somehow, I was usually okay with not having every cool thing in school. I mean, I had some things, but definitely not all of the cool stuff. I was already a practical girl I guess. I have a 10 year old daughter now. I feel so unprepared for parenting her. She’s so much more sensitive than I am and it is always a challenge to understand her and not disregard her feelings while working through our lives. Thanks for sharing this insight into your life. And thanks to your daughter for letting you share.

  16. 18

    says

    it’s so hard, isn’t it? And, my precious daughter is only in first grade! I went through this over Christmas with an American Girl doll, and while I believe she loves the “knock-off” she received, I wonder if she really was disappointed. The hard thing is that while I want her to be different and to have different values, there is still a part of me that sometimes wants her to fit in….because I know it can be so hard not to. Tough stuff…

  17. 19

    says

    My husband often tells our girls the story about when he was younger he got hand-me-downs from his cousins. His GIRL cousins. One time he got a pair of Lemon Frog jeans (J.C. Penney, I think) and, although he didn’t want to, his mom made him wear them to school. Some boy saw the little yellow frog on his jeans and said, “He’s wearing GIRL jeans!” He went home, took them off, and told his mom he would never wear those jeans again.

    Yep, life’s tough and kids are mean, but there is always someone who has it worse than we do.

  18. 20

    Kim says

    Our oldest is making the transition from homeschooling to public school this year–his first year in Jr High (EEK!!). We prayed and prayed and prayed over this decision and for the most part it’s been a fantastic transition. I’m so thankful for the fact that his school wears uniforms, for just this reason. But, I quickly learned from other kids and mom that there are still “cool” uniforms and “uncool” uniforms. For the most part he SEEMED pretty oblivious to it all, but as he was getting ready for school the other day I noticed he stuck his wallet in his backpack. Later, I casually asked why he needed his wallet and he sheepishly replied that students are required to buy a “patch” to cover any logo they have on their uniforms (ie the NAME BRAND logo). But, here’s the kicker: he didn’t have a logo–he just wanted to buy the patch to make it look like he did. My heart broke…

  19. 21

    says

    Oh I do not want to go through 6th grade with my now freshmen daughter ever ever again.

    My daughter had such a hard time in 6th grade that the anxiety caused her to have suiedo seizures. There were lots of ambulance rides, and hospital stays. I think it is so hard for our tweens in todays world. They seem to worry about social stigmas allot earlier then we had.

    We’ve had 2 seizures this year, nothing for months now. I hate to inform you that this is just the begining of more to come.

    Good luck. What is so crazy is that your daughter is BEAUTIFUL.

    One thing that helped me was printables. I searched blogs and pin for positive saying for her to wake up to in the morning, heck I still am doing this today and she is now in the 9th grade.

    Tiffanie:)

  20. 22

    Megan G. says

    Ugh. For me, this is one of the VERY HARDEST things about this journey we’re on together. It’s hard for me, as an adult who understands how budgets work and that these issues REALLY DON’T MATTER in the long run, to NOT want the newest, latest, coolest thing(s) that some of my friends have. And then I expect my 6-year-old to ‘get it?’ It’s a work in progress, for sure.

    None of us really know what the heck we’re doing, do we? I’m so glad we don’t have to do it alone. :)

  21. 23

    says

    I have said something similar. That I don’t want my daughter to be popular. I don’t want her to be disliked, but I don’t want her to fill her life with fakeness. I need to get her involved in the ministries that are close to my heart so that it’s not just all words but also love in action. And that will help to make her decisions about the realities of lie.

  22. 24

    says

    What is fitting in? I know what you mean and I think everyone struggles with it sometime or another! I still can on occasion and I’m 33! But really, what is fitting in? Why do I think it’s so important instead of grasping the individuality that God gave to me! 12 can be a tough age..growing up, yet still a kid!

  23. 25

    Kristi W. says

    I think God used you to speak to me this morning. My daughter just turned 9 and I have really been struggling with this. I want her to “fit in” at school, because not fitting in is so hard, but at the same time, I want her to be herself and not change who she is when she is with other people. It is such a fine line and breaks my heart to watch her want to have friends, but also be so different from everyone else. I think this is why people say that when you have children you walk around with your heart on your sleeve. It is not easy and I want to be in control and just fix it. Watching your children make their own way and just being there to give advice is HARD! Thank you for always being honst. I relate to your personality and my children seem to so closely relate to yours….it is encouragement for my soul.

  24. 26

    says

    Ahhh, memories, Guess jeans. I made my name known in middle school (not in a good way!) for my fake Keds. Yeah, they were pretty killer.

    Just read your Top 100 list at Cindy’s. I am in love with it. Missed it the first time around. Bravo.

  25. 27

    says

    I so remember those days of trying to fit in. My mom had a budget for us for school, excluding socks and underwear and once we went over it, it was our responsibility to buy it if we wanted it. So I had several knock off pants and 1 pair of pants that were Gloria Vanderbelt! (I’m a child of the 80s too!).

    My grandma offered to buy me another pair and we rushed into the store to buy them. If don’t think I tried them on, because I came home with them and I had bought my size in a tall. I’m a petite. And it wasn’t cool to roll your pants, so I just had a lot of ‘excess’ material at the bottom as I was afraid my mom would return them and not get me the right size.

    My 6 year old sometimes worries about fitting in if she doesn’t have the right earrings, headband, or an umbrella. So I’m getting a taste of how it will be when I have a teenager.

    Lord, please ease me into this!

    Regina

  26. 28

    says

    I can totally relate … I wanted the Guess Jeans & all that too … found a pair at a garage sale & wore them all the time. When they no longer fit, my crafty Mom sewed extra jean material down the seams. :) I don’t remember feeling that I didn’t fit in until college – coming from a really small town, it became abundantly clear, we were behind the times in fashion and well, everything else. I have a 12-year old, 7th grade daughter and I can see the struggle she goes through as we try to do things frugally. Through it all, I’m proud to say she’s as much of a bargain shopper as I am and has a hard time with the retail prices of most items. And, she definitely has embraced her own style and I’m proud of her for not trying to conform too hard.

  27. 29

    BeccaW says

    My Mom broke down and bought me a Guess t-shirt for Christmas one year since there was no way she was buying me the jeans. It got worse my Freshman year of high school, as the popular girls had $200 Dooney & Bourke drawstring purses. My Mom couldn’t even find the words to tell me how ridiculous that was. : ) Of course now as an adult there’s no way I would spend that much on a purse, but at 14, even though I knew it was not the best way to spend money, there was still a little part of me that wanted that purse so badly.
    I hope I’m able to tell my daughter when she’s older that the feeling of wanting to fit in is normal, and that it’s ok to acknowledge it, and maybe that will make it easier to do the counter cultural thing and follow what God is asking her to do instead.
    Thanks for your honest sharing Kristen, it means so much to so many!

  28. 30

    says

    It was LA Gear, here. I think I owned one pair and it was my father (my parents were split up) who got them for me. The desire to fit in was heart-wrenching. I never really fit in. I was the “smart kid” everyone wanted in their group for group projects, but wouldn’t hang out with otherwise.

    I’m noticing the desire to fit in with my 14 yr old son. He doesn’t. He has a terrific sense of humor that most people don’t “get”. He has a handful of friends who have similar senses of humor, but somewhere along the way, he got the idea that EVERYBODY had to like him. We have tried to tell him that his true friends will always like him and stick by him and he needs to hold true to who he is and not try to mold himself to fit everyone’s ideal of what is “right”. I just hope we are getting through to him.

    My 10 yr old daughter is okay sticking out from the crowd, for the most part. Her personality is that where most people do like her and get along with her. However, she too has people in her life that are just plain mean. She doesn’t understand it and we’re trying to coach her along the path.

    I think it is going to be a world of difference taking my son through the torrent teen years and taking my daughter through them. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  29. 31

    says

    Gosh, I remember more than anything wanting Guess OVERALLS!!! I remember they were $80 and one of my mom’s friends spied them on sale at Macys. Can you imagine….before cell phones?!? She might have called my mom from the pay phone at the store, but I remember hearing the story over and over again after I got them for Christmas that year.

    PS….who looks GOOD in overalls?!?

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