Different is Good

Jun 13 2011

One boot and one flip flop equals one pair of shoes.

You might think you have to find both flip flops or both boots to make a pair.  I thought the same thing.  But my preschoolers assure me we’re wrong.

You might think fried rice isn’t a breakfast food.  Or potstickers.  Or beans and cheese.

Or that apples shouldn’t be dipped in ranch dressing.

Or that fruit loops and cheerios aren’t a common ingredient in cheese quesadillas.

You’d be wrong about those things, too.  It’s OK; I’ll hold your hand, and we’ll get through this together.

I thought every preschool boy wanted Superman pajamas.  I was only half right.  My other twin boy wanted My Little Pony pajamas, and they should be pink and purple.  That’s right; my baby is gettin’ his Brony on.

My nine-year-old spent five years shunning her bed in favor of sleeping on the floor or in a papasan chair like a baby bird at the bottom of her nest.

So I don’t know why I was surprised to read my daughter’s electronic signature this week.

Different is good,
Abby

 

Abby is 12 — a middle schooler — which, if my memory is any good (questionable), is a time full of the desire to conform.  To fit in.  To be molded and shaped by your peers.  To become part of the hive mind.

It’s all very Borg, or, at least, it was Borg back in my day.  You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile. I can’t think of another way to explain the blue eye shadow I wore or my permed, feathered mullet which was loveliness personified.  Darn Borg.

And yet Abby sends her different is good mantra out into cyberspace every time she hits “send.”

My kids used to be wield the word Weird like a fencing foil to jab and cut their targets with precision and malice.

Or maybe Weird was more like a freight train.  No precision needed; great damage inflicted.

No matter what I compare it to, my children were terribly offended when they were accused by each other of being Weird.

For the last several years, though, we’ve talked regularly in our family about how much we value the weird.  Weird people.  New ideas.  Different thoughts.  Unique ways to approach and interact with our world.  All of those things challenge us to better articulate our beliefs or open our minds to new ways to become more loving people and to engage with unexpected beauty all around us.

Maybe that’s why we’ve had a Weird Shift in our family culture.  The words weird and different have become concepts my kids cheerfully embrace.  What was once an accusation is a compliment.

“You’re weird!” one child says playfully.

“I know!” the other child replies happily.

Weird!

I thought for a while after seeing “different is good” that I should have a conversation with Abby to clarify that not all conformity is bad.  I spent some time going over the convo in my head.  Something complex.  Something articulate.  Something that values the Weird, but allows for convention.

But I don’t want to.

Mostly because I think that Abby’s already figured out the most important part, and putting a lot of Mom Words on top of what she knows somehow feels like I’m belittling a deeper truth.

And also, I like her conclusion.

Different is good,

Beth