All of my kids are different.
They came out that way. Even though I ate, and acted and exercised during pregnancy pretty much the same on each child (… ok, so maybe exercise got less with each child. By number five it felt like my insides were falling out if I walked a mile – how does Michelle Duggar do it?!), the kids were different from the get-go.
Since they are different, they each have their own approach to life. They all have their moments of stubborn. They all can cop an attitude or huff off to a bedroom when their “mean mom” makes them do something horrible and life-threatening like take their brother’s plate to the sink, too. But they all are actually very nice. And, I often have moments of sappy as I watch them live their different lives. Different – not necessarily good or bad – just different.
Different was at play as I drove to the store with Snopes yesterday.
“So, when I get in the car – do I look at him?” she asked. It’s over a month away, but the kid is already, and has been for months, mentally preparing for her driver’s test. Because that’s her M.O. – she’s thinks about things ALOT!
When I took my driver’s test – I don’t remember thinking about anything except parallel parking. And even then, my brother told me that I could totally botch my parking and still pass as long as I didn’t hit the cones. Yippee. That’s all I needed to know. … But not Snopes.
“If I look at him, because I’m pretty sure it will be a him, do I say ‘Hello’ or ask him how’s he’s doing.. you know if he’s having a nice day?”
I could almost see her palms sweating.
“Because,” she continued, “I would do that in real life. You know ask someone how they are. That’s what I do … but I don’t know if you can talk to DPS guy while taking a driving test… or if he will think I’m asking him because I want to pass me.”
“I don’t know,” I told her. “Maybe ask him if it’s okay to talk to him.” Seriously, I don’t know.
“Okay, yeah .. that’s good. I’ll ask.” Then she started thinking about what to do or not to do. “Sunglasses or no sunglasses? You know, can I wear them…. Radio or no radio. For sure no phone. Do I adjust the seat?… or not? And visor or no visor. My friend Paige told me that putting the visor down blocks your view. So she didn’t put it down AND she didn’t wear her sunglasses – so she could barely see a thing. But she just kept going … and she passed … but she didn’t know what to do when the sun blasted in and she was afraid to touch her visor.”
Oh my word. Calgon, take me away! “Listen, the idea is to be safe,” I assure her and try to add some perspective. I think she’s quickly losing sight of the purpose behind a driver’s license test. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be okay with sunglasses or visors. Just ask. He’s a person. Like you. He had to take a driver’s license test once, too.”
“Oh .. yes … okay … yeah, that’s true,” she laughed, trying to reassure herself.
I raised an eyebrow and wondered what else is going on in her mind.
It’s what she does. She mentally travels every detail of every road she meets or might meet. EVERY detail. What should, would and could happen has already been dissected by the time something happens. It’s actually kind of sweet … and maybe a tiny bit annoying. It’s who she is. I can’t imagine the amount of mind power spent on all the iterations.
Yet, I’m convinced that her little exercise is part of what makes her so wonderful. She has an uncanny sense of her surroundings. And because of that, she sees things most people don’t. She’s been that way since she was a little girl. And, most of the things she notices are people who often go unnoticed… but desperately need to be noticed. (See Also: An Encouraging Word) It’s beautiful.
She’s different than her siblings. Her sister, super organized and matter-of-fact, will be my one to get in the car and go, wearing sunglasses and putting down the visor. She has, and has had since the beginning of her life, a whatever approach. She was my one that took a stance even in the Labor and Delivery room. After 12-hours of hard labor (the bad part at the end), I’ll never forget my nurse offering drugs that I had for some reason sworn-off (I kept thinking the baby was about to be born) and saying, “This baby is for sure a boy – stubborn and stuck, determined to do it his way.” What a surprise to see a girl.
Then, there’s fiery brother whose different comes in the form of passion & tenacity that sometimes presents itself as anger. I hope he will use it one day for good … maybe to find the cure for cancer. But I know driving will be a blip on his screen, a means to an end. And yet another brother who has no interest in a driver’s license. His disinterest is consistent with his different.
As parents, we try to be aware of different and train each of our kids accordingly. But different can be hard. Different can be challenging. Still to me, the hardest part of different is weathering what feels like stares or judgment. It’s a fine line, managing differences.
I guess that’s where faith and good friends come in. Faith that calms rough waters. Faith that offers assurance that God has gifted each child to the right parents who can love them like no one else. Faith that we can do it. Faith that, with our hearts and intentions in check (not acting out of fear or in people-pleasing mode), everything will be okay. And friends who, with loving discernment, can help us see a bit more clearly as we manage different.
Is there a right way? Why do we so desperately want there to be one? Can different be okay?
I watch different, maybe best said “unique”, play out in front of me every day. My brood of unique has very imperfect parents. But, with hearts in the right place, we do our best to find a good balance of steering them toward to the good aspects of their uniqueness and away from the bad.
So – sunglasses or no sunglasses? More often than not, I think it doesn’t matter. What do you think?
Thanks for walking the road with me.