Welcome to rural Vermont. This is a judgement-free zone.
There are no Saks 5th Avenue or Prada stores around the corner but instead, you’ll find a Mom and Pop store, a Farmer’s Market and you will, at one point or another, get stuck behind a manure spreader on your way to work. In recent decades, we’ve seen an increase of people that aren’t from this state, region, or even country. With this demographic shift came some new ideas and yoga studios, tea shops and alternative places to worship other than a white steepled church.
As I’ve grown a little older (and wiser, I hope) I’ve become more aware of “my tribe” or “my squad,” if you wanted to ask my teenagers what they would call my group of friends. I find it’s always nice to have some acquaintances in the mix who might not fit my profile and who are refreshing in different ways because they can teach me new things.
I’ve learned that I care a little less about what people wear, what their occupation is, and what they drive as a prerequisite to being considered my friend. I’d like to say that as “grown-ups” we have all matured a little and can see beyond these societal facades.
We might not be entirely judgement-free, but we try to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. Our local high school had a promotion a few years back where they sold t-shirts that said, “Dude, Be Nice…” I wanted one and I wanted to hand a few out to some parents I would see at the kid’s soccer games. Some situations remind me that we ALL need a little reminder about acting with human kindness.
I was near a woman one morning who was lamenting about having to transfer her child to the local public school as the local private school had recently closed. In desperation, she sighed, “Ugghh, I just want to move to another town. When I dropped my kids off, all the other kids were wearing camo.” My heart dropped a bit and then I just made an affirming “Hmmm” noise to let her know I was listening. I didn’t know how else to respond.
A few days passed, and again I found myself with this woman. She mentioned another woman she had known. She said, “We just were so different! We couldn’t work together.” I felt that statement was fair and a little more objective than her first statement a few days before. But then she continued, ”She likes Nascar and stuff. She’s such a redneck!” I wasn’t irritated anymore, I was offended. I thought about my oldest child. He’s 15 and one of the sweetest and kindest young men I know. I’m not just saying this because I’m his mom. He generously offers hugs to his aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents when he sees them, even though he sees them frequently. He makes an effort to go back to his junior high school to greet old teachers when he has a chance. He’s chosen a job to earn money instead of football this year. I was sad but also proud to be able to commend him for his work ethic. My son would give you the shirt off of his back… and he wears camo. He wears logging boots. He wears Carhartt pants. And so do half of his peers. I guess this mom must have mistaken me for someone else when she lamented that morning. I was the “camo” kid’s mom and so are some of my friends. While I may have moved away from things I once knew when I was a kid growing up in Vermont, like big, loud trucks, country music and watching car races, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I come from. I still have plenty of cowboy boots in my closet.
Or maybe we assume that what people wear clearly represents their socioeconomic status or their education or their kindness or their work ethic.
I understand that something different can sometimes cause anxiety- but to create fear and spread it only divides us as a community. Can’t we try to be judgement-free? Once I did feel compelled to suggest to my kids that they wear something other than logger boots or camo sweatshirts- but I could never get over wondering how I would feel if someone put me in a box for the sake of society’s interpretation. My kids have watched Duck Dynasty but they’ve also learned how to do Qi Gong and know how to pray. They can shoot a gun and they can also be seen holding doors open for older people.
With this, I will offer my advice to moms out there who have camo-less children- please teach your kids compassion and to respect and value difference. Moms and dads, you can learn just as much from a farmer as a doctor. Let’s all try to be nice to each other, and work towards being judgement-free.
Guest Author Hannah Zeno
Hi! I’m Hannah, mom to three crazy kids: Riley (12), Bailey (13), and Lucas (15). My life could be a reality show. My hubby, Karl, is cool as a cucumber- and has to be to thrive with my zany bunch! I’ve spent the last 7 years as a renowned bikini waxer (no, I’m not kidding) and have recently turned off my wax pot to pursue my love for health and happiness. Find me on Facebook!