Superheroes In Training

All kinds of badass superhero pictures are popping up on the freeplaylife facebook page (click on the “everyone” tab to see them all!)…pictures that ladies (and men!) have made at this website to embody their inner and outer strength and awesomeness. The “Make Your Own Superhero” Challenge is here…have you made yours yet?!

Lots of people, me included, got our kids involved and helped them make their own superhero avatar too. I saw all three of my kids avatars next to my own and wished I had a sewing machine and the proper sewing knowledge to make the costumes that we’d chosen for our superheroes. The good thing about being unschoolers is that the “regular” population assumes we’re pretty crazy anyway, so it makes it that much more acceptable to not follow the norm. All I have to do is mouth “we’re unschoolers” and that explains everything. To the people who know what unschooling is, anyway. To the uninitiated then we’re the ones giving them the idea that unschooling = crazy. I love that.

So, yeah. In our street clothes, we look like this:

Even in our street clothes, we stand out. It might have something to do with three shaved heads and a girl with a rainbow mohawk walking around together.

I’m not naturally inclined to stand out like this. And it took me a while before I was OK to have my kids stand out like this. I was born and raised to understand that the most important things to be in life are normal, nice, and acceptable. And here we are walking around looking nothing like normal, nice, and acceptable people.

What made the difference? Finding my own superhero. Realizing that she’s always wanted to rock a shaved head. Realizing that she finds normal really boring and very depressing. I’ve kind of been a superhero in training the last couple years, and the more I listen to what it is that part of me wants, the better I get at making choices for myself. No one can hear that voice or make those choices for me…the path towards superherodom is paved with self reliance.

The superhero in me started seeing and honoring the superhero in everyone around me…including my kids. So when Naturalist said she wanted to shave her head too, I surrendered all my parental fears about her femininity, appearance, and maybe poor choice and allowed her to undertake her own superhero in training path. When Sassy said she wanted a rainbow mohawk (something she’s asked about since she was 2) I did the same. It’s never too early to embark on the path of the superhero!

You’ve never seen a kid so freaking happy about their hair. When it’s not in full mohawk mode, she looks like real life rainbow dash.

I’m not immune to the looks and stares, or to the points or whispers when we all walk by. Before I valued my inner superhero, I wouldn’t have let either daughter change their appearance like that. I would have been more like the people who have come up to tell me, “My daughter wants to shave her head, but I told her I’d kick her butt if she did!” When I asked the woman for more details, she said “well, you know, she’s a Mary Kay rep and she needs to look pretty!”

It’s amazing how clearly spelled out just how narrow our society’s vision of beauty is when you veer away from it in look, appearance, or style. It’s a powerful force, the idea of “normal” and “fitting in”. No one wants to be left out or ostracized, and no one wants that for their kids. It’s why parents pick out clothes for their children instead of letting them assemble something like rainboots with a tutu, checkered shirt and sequined vest. It’s why we are so invested in their hairstyles (I can’t count the number of times moms come up to me saying, “I would never let my kid do that”), fashion, attitudes, manners, sports, hobbies…etc., etc.

The best way we honor our own authentic voice is to follow our individual superhero path. Spiderman could never be Superman who could never be the Hulk.

The best way we honor our kids own authentic voice is to step back and allow them to follow their own individual superhero path.

Yes, they will make mistakes. Yes, so will you.

If what they want has no permanent consequences, then I leave it up to them. Hair, clothes, food, sleep…these are all things that superheroes in training need to figure out. I find ways to support their path while being realistic about the consequences. When Sassy said she wanted a rainbow tattooed across her face I suggested perhaps a marker rainbow would be better for now.

When Naturalist and her teenage mind go clothes shopping, the superhero in me–long socks, aviator glasses, feather earrings and all–recognizes that the superhero in her will need to explore and try lots of things before settling on her superhero outfit. Some of her choices I LOVE, and some I really can’t stand. But it goes both ways. She wasn’t fond of this sparkly number I picked out. And that’s OK. We’ve learned that superheroes don’t dress the same, but they all need an outfit. So we respect that even if we disagree about what makes a good superhero frock.

Respect that the people around you are, like you, superheroes trying to find their own powers. Especially your kids. After all, self reliance is one of the most powerful tools a superhero can equip themselves with. It takes trial and error. It takes courage to follow your inner voice rather than all the outer voices with other ideas…and to allow your child the same benefit. It takes trust in yourself and your kid.

Looking back down the way we’ve come, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Superheroes rock, and it’s never to early to start!



  1. My favorite part of this whole post was this: “It’s why parents pick out clothes for their children instead of letting them assemble something like rainboots with a tutu, checkered shirt and sequined vest,” because that is so something my 4 yr old super hero would wear. :) I’m so glad that I had her when I did, because when I was a newer mom, I don’t think I would have allowed her to express herself that way. Now I absolutely honor all of my kids’ unique ways of expressing themselves… and it is AWESOME.

  2. Gorgeous peeps and a fabulous outlook as usual! Thanks for always being so motivating! Your posts are very life-affirming. Sassy looks super cute!

  3. You guys look amazing!! I have debated getting dreadlocks for many years and I am about to take the plunge…fining my inner superhero. Today I will talk to my kids about their inner superheros, thank you!

  4. Tiffany /

    When I dyed Jessie’s hair bright pink (at her request I hasten to add! ) people would come up to her and say “Does your FATHER know you did that?!!?!?” *insert shocked gasp here!* or “What did your MOTHER say about that?!?!?!” it’s as if they think she somehow did it herself and then hid from her parents!! So many adults will walk up to her and tell her whether they approve, or not, of her hair!! It’s got to be because she is only 12…. could you imagine any adult walking up to a late teen and declaring their hairstyle unfit to be seen in public!!?!?! Anyway, the point is, standing out MAKES you brave. You can’t be shy and retiring rocking a rainbow mowhawk or a bright pink asymmetrical haircut. You have to pull out your superhero persona and be prepared to rise about the rest!

  5. “The best way we honor our own authentic voice is to follow our individual superhero path.” love it. i was just thinking yesterday how would i react if my kids wanted to do some of the stuff i am starting to do/think about…we will see, but i think you are right, let them try it out, they will find what works for them. no ink till 18. and i have ink. lol i don’t want to be HELD responsible by them later on that one!


  6. Christine /

    Love this all so much. I’m still working up the bravery to shave my head. I’m sure I will one day. I’ve come pretty close with only an inch of hair. For now I’ll stick with the purplish streaks.

  7. Awesome post and so true. We need to respect that our kids are figuring things out just like us. And if they are able to do this at a young age, how much more ahead of the game are they?!!
    You are always very correct about unschoolers/homeschoolers being able to dress the way THEY want.