Saturday, June 27, 2009

A trip to the mall

I had errands in the city this past week on a day when I didn’t have to rush home for anything. In looking at a map to determine the most efficient route to complete my errands, I noticed I would be passing right by a large mall.

“Hey girls!” I announced to my kids. “Would you like to walk around a mall this afternoon?”

For the record, we haven’t set foot inside a mall in four or five years. Why should we? There’s nothing we would buy (most of our clothing and household goods are purchased second-hand) and the nearest mall is an hour and a half drive away. So this was viewed as a huge treat by my girls. Besides, I thought it would be interesting to stop in and see how malls have changed.

Well it was interesting, all right, but not because of the stores. In fact, it turned into a fascinating sociological and anthropological experience.

Remember this was early summer, on a Tuesday afternoon, so the mall was full of… teenagers.

Believe it or not, my girls don’t see a lot of teenagers outside our home town, at least not in large numbers. Urban teens are a whole different species than rural teens. There wasn’t a cowboy hat – and even very little denim – to be seen.

Now understand, I have a teen. And I knew there would be teens at the mall. A good part of the reason I wanted my kids to go to this mall was… well, to show my teen what’s out there. What she’s missing. What her publicly-schooled peers are like. What they’re wearing, how they’re acting, what makeup they have on, what the boys are like, that kind of thing.

And please note, the kids at this mall were not bad kids. Far from it. They were quiet and well-behaved, walking around in groups and not causing any trouble. They shopped. They ate. They hung out. No big deal.

But my kids were shocked nonetheless. To them, it was like watching a circus freak show. “Look at that one!” one or the other daughter would whisper, pointing discretely. “Oh my gosh, look at that one!” Spiked and/or unnaturally colored hair. Tattoos. Body piercings. Fashions. Language.

It reminded me of an incident that happened when my oldest was about eight (in fact, it was probably one of the last times we were in this particular mall). Coming out of a Barnes & Noble, my oldest tugged at my sleeve until I leaned down. “Mom!” she whispered, pointing. “Is THAT what you don’t want me looking like when I’m a teenager?”

I looked at a fourteen-year-old human Bratz doll walking by, complete with fishnet stockings and makeup that must have been applied with a trowel. I whispered back “Yes!”, pleased that she understood at so tender an age what is considered inappropriate in our family.

So now that my oldest is thirteen and taking an interest in her appearance, I am so so so so so so so happy we live in the country and are homeschooling, and that her peers – even the publicly-schooled ones – don’t look like Bratz dolls and hang out at the mall.

My girls understood what they’re missing, all right… and both expressed gratitude that they’re missing it.



  1. Hi, I'm a new reader to your blog. I'm enjoying it so far.

    As a Christian, homeschooling, single father, I worry that my 7 year old boy (my only child and apple of my eye) won't have the same reaction that your children had.

    Any thoughts?

  2. I actually work in retail -- in a mall setting and am so happy neither of my kids look anything like many of the kids who hang out in the mall. (And you're fortunate to not to have run into troublemakers there. We dread summer due to parents dropping off kids for the day at the mall expecting us, in essence to babysit them. So many of them have no money, are bored, and wander aimlessly, then resort to trouble.)

  3. I love your account of taking your kids to the mall. Very well written! You're on the right track with them and it's blessing you're letting them make up their own minds and not dictating like so many parents do. [That's a sure prescription for disaster especially as they get older.] They're smart kids and can see how pressured and stressful their lives would be if they had to live like the girls in the photo. Keep up the great work -- both your blogging and raising those precious kids! :D

  4. I wanna be your neighbor! We have to endure this everywhere we go. My six year old son says to look away:)

  5. I realize this is an old post, but I need to express how absolutely disgusted I am at how you encourage your children's harsh judgment of how others choose to dress. For some one with no interest in fashion you seem to spend a lot of time mocking those who enjoy doing their hair and makeup and dressing in nice clothes. I am the type of girl who spends thousands of dollars on handbags and shoes, I have no interest in living in the country or farming. With that being said I would never dream of making fun and demeaning those who find enjoyment from country living. If you and your daughters are happy presenting yourselves the way you do, who am I to say anything negative about it? Perhaps you should extend the same courtesy to those who have different interests and passions than you. I find your clothes in the pictures you have on your blog to be embarrassing and ridiculous but I would never make a post on my blog showing shoes you like that I find ugly and proceeding to mock them. If you don't like how someone dressed thats your problem, not theirs. I also find it ironic that you enjoy reading people of walmart. Where I'm from, the clothes your family wears would land you on that site. Please consider that before you try to shame another person into conforming to your world view. Now I'm going to take my own advice and find a new blog to read that contains a little less arrogance.