My father was always a person who didn’t like doing something just because someone told him to do it. Some people may see that as a flaw, something they don’t want their own kids to emulate. Me? I think it’s a strength and am proud to see this characteristic in myself and my kids. Gretchen Rubin talked about this in her four categories of personality:

  1. The upholder, who is motivated by both internal and external rules
  2. The obliger, who is motivated by external rules and not internal ones
  3. The questioner, who is motivated by internal rules and not external ones
  4. The rebel, who is resistant to all rules.

Looking at these, it’s possible my dad would have fit into the rebel category. But me, I think I’m a questioner through and through. I am resistant to external imposed structure and rules until I can make sense of them internally. My grandfather used to lovingly call me contrary Mary because I would argue with him so much. I don’t even remember what about, well, except maybe at times his sexist comments.

My oldest is choosing classes again this year. And in doing this, we’ve often gone against the stream of what others might recommend.

Allowing her to drop two levels from a pre-AP to a regular history class so that she could take orchestra. 

Trying to convince the school choir teacher to allow her to audition for the Connecticut Music Educator Association festival even though she wasn’t in her class. Though we failed that effort, the teacher has now told us she wished she had let her do that. 

Allowing her to not take a language sophomore year because it wouldn’t fit in her schedule if she chose to take honors rather than AP history.

 Advocating (herself!) to test out of Italian 3 after not taking said language course sophomore year and now excelling in Italian 4.

Convincing her choir and orchestra teachers to allow her to split time between the two courses so that she can participate in both.

Advocating (again herself!) for her school to have a Music Theory course, organizing a petition, and now practically helping teach this course.

And now, working to find an area school that will allow her to take the AP Music Theory exam there since it’s not offered in her school.

There are so many ways that we can respond to external rules. For me (and my daughter), we don’t want to follow them unless they make sense. So what do we do then when faced with those rules that don’t make sense to us?

We can react a lot of different ways. We can be overwhelmed and see no way around them. We can push our way through them, not caring if we hurt ourselves or others along the way. Or, we can carefully advocate. We can explain our case. We can push back against the resistance. And maybe, just maybe, we can make a change. Help make the rules work better for all of us. Help to see opportunity when everyone else can’t.

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