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Oh, no! I’m afraid some people will start throwing stones at me… Don’t get me wrong, the purses are pretty – but way over priced.

Let me explain what I don’t like about Vera Bradley, American Girl dolls, etc: they make children want to be what they are not! The whole branding fascination does that and the children that cannot afford them, feel worthless. And make parents try to live beyond their means… They are elitist and exclusive!

There is a tendency in the American society to compensate every need with material things – let’s go shopping for when things go bad… And it is hitting kids at younger ages every year. And the trends, that are so instant and replaceable in the era of flash love, hit schools like a hurricane. There is the case of wall paper, carpet, and chandeliers for lockers – FOR LOCKERS!!!!! What is the real use of it but create more garbage????? And all the girls feel they must have them to decorate their school lockers… and the girls that don’t do it are out (popularity, anyone?). And the “need” to have a Vera Bradley purse or backpack – to go to school, really? And the brand jeans, shirts, shoes. I have to confess that I ended up buying Tom’s shoes for my kids – they are overpriced, but I think I felt compelled by the Company’s campaign to shoe kids in developing countries for every pair of Tom’s you buy. The capitalist charitable way…

I can see my girls fascinated by all this – wanting and wanting – and feeling less valued and important because they don’t have them (am I being a bad mother?) But I am trying to teach them that these “things”, because they are just things, are not what define them, or make them happy. It’s just an outside validation that will go away, replaced by the next… and it will be impossible to keep up with it to “feel” happy.

We did have our brands and trends when I was growing up, but I did not feel less valued because I didn’t have them – if I liked something and it resonated with my style (because style and liking to dress are part of growing up) I’d try to find a good deal – and so did most of my friends. The ones who didn’t, were not show offs, just a bit lazy… but no one was an outcast because of what they wore or had…

But this is a different culture and society and I am a bit lost (and old… very different generation…) – and honestly reaching out to all mothers – am I messing up with my kids’ life by not fulfilling what I consider an empty desire? By not surrendering to the “popular” concept that I don’t understand? Do we, as parents, need to subscribe to these material wants so our kids feel accepted? How, when I start seeing kids so young going to school with their iPhones and iPads, and their expensive shoes, and purses, and jewelry, just so they are above (or better, the same) others?

Being a teenager is already such a delicate and sensitive phase  – and with this material interference, it makes it harder and harder. We preach against peer pressure, but subscribing to this whole issue is accepting the pressure… why do we conform to the wrong causes and issues?…

Would love to know what you think – I’m at loss…


Yesterday my 12-year-old told me she was giving up! Seriously, this early in life? Then she gave me her reasons. She has tried being elected for the Student Council Body in her school for the last 4 years with no success – she came close a couple of times, though. Today she realized she can’t win because she is not “popular”. I hate this concept of popular and losers that reigns in schools and, sadly, office spaces… I did not grow up in the US and had a really hard time understanding the whole idea of being popular and being a loser and I quickly noticed how those ideas are linked to bullying. So, why do schools continue to support such mentality? In the end, what popularity means is that you are mediocre – you look and act as everyone else. When you think, dress, and act differently, then you are considered “weird”, or a “loser”. Well, I rather be a loser than being “cattle” – I love everything creative, and different, and unexpected. But everyone wants acceptance and likes recognition – and popularity is the peak of being accepted – by being common and mid stream…

Gabi, my 12-year-old, is a very good kid – gets good grades, complies with the rules, is kind-hearted, stands for what is right. Yet, she goes unnoticed by the school at large. She does not have a bubbly-in-your-face-it’s-all-about-me personality – and I don’t think she likes competition. Quite honestly, there is too much competition in school today – and it is never for merit, but for popularity (again). Too much focus on the individual instead of the group – even in team sports… And now, that she is in 7th grade, she is definitely not “popular” and is losing friends, as most kids do not subscribe to what she believes as important: kindness, originality, friendship, family, help others. She told me that the kids that will win Student Council elections are the ones that are rich, wear the trendy and expensive clothes and accessories (Vera Bradley, Abercrombie, Aeropostale…  I shall create a brand to spoof the over priced purses: Vera Affordably!) – and are “popular”! (and isn’t this happening right now in our political scene? People want the bullies, the “popular” and not so much the honest leader…). It’s not about content, or what you want to carry out as a Student Council. It is about getting votes as a proof that all kids know you and, in a way, worship you… and you are accepted… Don’t get me wrong – Gabi’s teachers like her and always have kind words for and about her. Yet, they don’t encourage or promote the kids who have the right attitude and she hardly gets the awards she so much deserves and for which she longs – like the positive attitude award, kindness award, go above and beyond types of awards. She is no “loser” also – she is just slowly becoming one of those invisible kids that populate the hallways in our school system. What is wrong with that picture? A lot – no student should feel like they were numbers – everyone has potential to contribute to society – and we would like for that contribution to be a positive one, but if we neglect the good traits and character in the median student and only emphasize on popularity, how do we expect the kids who will lead our future to be confident, independent, free thinking, authentic, problem solvers, and – most importantly – to have good values?

Because we do not subscribe to the “loser-popular” idea in our house, my kids make friends and choices based on character, moral values, empathy … and they suffer when their friends have a dominant and overbearing personality tending to the  “popular” attitude.

After we talked about it, Gabi decided she was going to join forces with her friend as a team to run for the two Librarian spots available. I am very proud of her – not only for not giving up, but also for not selling herself out by the pressure of popularity.
Our schools need major reform – and I believe the reform will need to start with the social aspect of it – how to engage all the kids, how to eliminate the alienating notion of popularity and with it end bullying. But this will be subject for an entire new entry!

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