Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dare to be different...yeah, right!

I think that when many of us become parents, we take a silent pledge to remember what it was like to be a kid and infuse those memories into our parenting. Sadly, we're getting old and our memories are like sieves so we don't remember all that we should. It's easy as an adult to conclude that kids have it easy but when we put ourselves in their shoes, the gravity of any given child situation cannot be minimized or understated. I know this and try to incorporate the child's perspective in my parenting but sometimes I completely and somewhat shockingly miss the mark.

A case in point involves the upcoming B'not Mitzvah celebration for our twin daughters. My husband Jeff and I have planned a weekend full of festivities and we're all very excited. For rite of passage celebrations such as the one we're planning, parents and sometimes siblings often put together a photo montage that poignantly takes guests of the celebration through the life and times of the honoree(s). We thought we'd shake things up a bit. We found these really creative guys who sit around a table with you and pitch ideas, the way I imagine they do on Saturday Night Live, and had them pitch us video concepts. Montage, feh... we were going to make a movie! We met with these guys twice and they offered up all these amazing ideas. We thought about filming our two girls doing a version of The Amazing Race. We considered having them inserted into an episode of Glee or American Idol. We considered doing a spoof of Modern Family. We invested considerable time in the brainstorming portion of the process and were scheduled to shoot the video this past weekend. A week before the scheduled shoot, the girls sat me down and sheepishly revealed that they didn't want to spoof Glee or American Idol. The truth, delivered in slow motion, was that they really didn't want to do a video at all. They wanted a montage like everyone else. "Are you nuts?! But this will be so awesome. It'll be something new and different," I shouted. "Precisely," they answered. They're 12 years old. They didn't want to be different. Duh!

We think of our kids as unique and want them to think of themselves the same way. We want them to lead the pack and forge new paths. It's helpful to remember that celebrating your differences is a process. For most of us, that process doesn't begin or peak when we're 12 years old. I laugh when I think of how excited we were to put together a different sort of vehicle to show off our kids. The irony is that their uniqueness shines through in every photograph and the photo montage we roll on March 12 will be amazing.

Michelle Knudsen's Argus, illustrated by Andrea Wesson, is an enchanting story that deals with the process toward appreciating difference (in a fun and elegant way; rather than by hitting you over the head with a sledgehammer). Every child in Sally's class gets an egg for a science experiment. Sally's egg is different from the rest. When the other eggs hatch, cute little chicks emerge. Sally's chick is green, scaly and bigger than the rest. The other chicks eat seeds. Sally's chick, which grows bigger and faster than the others, tries to eat the other chicks. Sally does not immediately embrace the uniqueness of her chick. The process takes hold, though, and the ride is fun and rewarding.

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