On May 11, 2019, my first born will graduate from college. She has already started her first job, making more money than me I might add, and is in the process of moving into her first apartment. To say I am overwhelmed with emotion might be an understatement. How do you best recognize these moments as a parent? What can you say or do that honors them? The best I can come up with is to share one of the things she taught me and does so eloquently, celebrate difference.
It is interesting how there are themes to our lives. Often they come and go but most always are recurring. For me, the theme lately seems to be about celebrating difference. I suppose what got me thinking about this is my teenage daughter, Abby. From Facebook to free thinking, she has me focusing on how unique we all are, questioning what goes into making a person, and appreciating the differences.
I recently began using Facebook. Those that know me understand it has been a long and somewhat painful time coming. You see, I entered this new world of communication in hopes of understanding and viewing the universe of my daughter. A foreign universe as we have entered the teen years. Despite my reluctance to join in this new world, I am somewhat fascinated by it. Feeling much more like a foreigner than a native, I find myself taking on the role of observer or learner and relating it to other aspects of my life.
Being a newbie to Facebook, you quickly note the difference in communication styles, not just among people but within them. My daughter who is somewhat on the quiet side at school is a very active “poster” online. It seems she has lots to say and I am often pretty impressed by her thoughts. I am even impressed with many of her friends. It seems they truly know how to celebrate difference as evidenced by Facebook posts to Abby’s page relating to the “Cool Person’s Club” and Abby’s acceptance in it.
What is the “Cool Person’s Club”? It turns out from talking to Abby that the “Cool Person’s Club” is for kids that are not “Really Popular” and they only have one member that is “Pretty Popular” but he is “Really Nice”… What a nice way to celebrate your difference. I actually went to work the next day and told several people that I was going to start my own “Cool Person’s Club” and would let them know when I figured out all of the specifics.
So, how did she get that “Cool” or “Challenging” depending on the day? Recently, I was talking to my mom about how free thinking Abby is and my mom quickly pointed out, “One of your favorite things to say when you were growing up was, ‘You can’t judge people.’” The question is did she get that from me, was she born to think this way, or is it like I suspect, some beautiful combination of the two? Does it even matter as long as we celebrate difference?
I can remember sitting in a lecture as a Psychology major undergrad and the professor putting forth the idea that babies are born a “Tabula Rasa”-a “Blank Slate.” He went on to suggest that we could create in our children anything we want them to be. Sitting there, I thought what an awesome responsibility…seems a little simplistic…but, it is interesting that some very learned people side that strongly with the nurture side of the nature vs. nurture debate.
A few years later, I had my first child, Abby. She came out perfect. For the most part, she was a golden child and I kind of thought, well, if nurturing is all important, we must be doing a pretty good job creating a pretty great kid. There was no way to know what was her and what we were creating.
A couple of years later, my son, Josh, came along. Almost instantly, I was amazed by the difference in temperament. Abby would cry when she wanted to be left alone. Josh slept on my chest for 4 months because he always wanted to be close. The differences were immense.
Abby was controlled and thoughtful. In kindergarten her teacher would tell the students to “Zip it, lock it, and put it in your pocket” as they prepared to walk through the halls. Abby would come home and say, “I don’t need to zip it, lock it and put it in my pocket – I can just be quiet.”
Josh was passionate and pushed limits. On the count of three, Josh was the child that would wait until you were almost saying three to do what he was supposed to be doing. When he was two, he was the child that looked at us and said, “I am the boss!”
Abby dressed up as “Woody” from Toy Story (For those unaware, Woody was a Cowboy-a really nice leader amongst the toys but nonetheless a boy) and insisted we call her “Woody” for most of a year. Josh on the other hand wouldn’t let me play with the Thomas Train set because “Girls don’t play trains” and occasionally he would divide the family by boy-girl.
All of these differences in two children that came from the same people and grew up in the same home. The way I see it, if you love and appreciate all that makes them who they are, I don’t suppose it really matters how they got to be the way they are. It is just nice that our children allow us to sit back and celebrate the difference- A lesson we all probably need to be reminded of once in a while.
*This content was written over 8 years ago but it is a truth that holds true today and that we can all use to help best support the beautiful differences and lessons that our children bring to us.