Defining Your Own Social and Cultural Norms


cultural normsHappy birthday to me as I look to celebrate the day by spending time with my fur babies and soaking in the love of my children, who just want to be in my presence. No presents, no parties, and definitely no cake. Just my loves that understand their mama does not even like birthday cake. I plan to cook absolutely nothing, clean enough to prevent ant infestations, and possibly shower. That is it. And this brings my heart absolute joy.  

I lost count of the number of times I’ve claimed a different zip code. But I can recollect the number of geographical changes that mark my journey. With every residence, church, and workplace, I found myself frequently in a state of performance as I desperately tried to adjust to the new hidden social and cultural norms. Most of us struggle at some point with the desperate need to fit in. But what happens when this adaptation takes precedence over celebrating your unique individuality?

I’ve sat in homes that choose to eat dinner at the table every night, homes without a dining room table, and homes with a dining room table that is occasionally used but often covered in clean laundry. I adopted the last example, which seems to uphold a bit of the preceding two. We eat as a family at the table once a week. However, I know that a bold declaration such as this can be accompanied with judgment and/or assumptions based upon an individual’s background and geographical perspective. 

 As my children grow older, I begin to shift my perspective toward inclusion and determining my own narrative. However, my babies ranging in age from 26 to 14 often remind me of our social and cultural norms adaptation journey. 

Below are just a few of these painful reminders:

  • We eat at the table every night even if we are tired, behind schedule, or eating cereal
  • Your music must be clean and filled with encouraging words that may or may not serve as a sedative depending on the melody
  • You may not have a television in your room. For the remainder of the night-you, are Amish
  • Do you want a piercing? Are you crazy? Only when you pay for it yourself. Or better yet, wait until you are 30
  • Nightly dinner includes one meat, one carb, and one veggie (note this has shifted to cereal, applesauce, and toast over the years)
  • We do not talk about sex in its detailed form. We talk about how babies are made, and that is it (coming from the previous 15-year-old pregnant teen)

Adult children and teens have a phenomenal selective memory. They possess this exceptional ability to remind you of the good, the bad, and mostly the ugly of their childhood. However, this remembrance can be a time of celebration. Upholding the list above (and other changing perspectives) was completely exhausting.  

Speaking of the sex talk.

My son recently explained the anatomy of the male to me in great detail (emphasis on the great detail). Throughout this conversation, he questioned if he should continue the newfound insights from his psychology class. Once I encouraged him to proceed, he finished his story by reminding me of my perspective shift. He reminded me that this would not be a conversation allowed on the table just a few years ago. My heart sank a bit because I realized that my older children could not communicate heaviness on their hearts out of fear of being judged or reprimanded.  

I cannot fix these woes attributed to adapting to the dominant social and cultural norms in my communities of residence, but I can continue to embrace every aspect of the word “inclusivity.”  

For today, I celebrate myself by asking for carryout dinner to eat in front of the television and peach cobbler accented with a small candle as I celebrate another year around the sun.