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“I don’t fear being different. I fear not being different.”
Said one very mature and wise teen. Not me.
At that age, I was the girl who was afraid of being different. I wanted to fit in. I was consumed with dressing like everyone else, behaving like everyone else, I even tried to think like others. To this day it is sometimes still difficult for me to form my own opinion.
As a teen I wanted to be accepted. I thought the way to acceptance was through being like everyone else, instead of the girl God created me to be. And this consuming desire to be the same, left me anxious and insecure. The very opposite feeling of what I was seeking to eliminate from my life.
It happened in my twenties when I was a young, working professional. And it happened when I became a mom. And I suppose it will happen when my kids are grown, if I don’t stop and try to redefine myself according to how God made me, rather than in relation to others.
After decades of striving to fit in, I am making peace with me. Peace with the fact that I am not the same as anyone else.
I am different. Everyone is.
My son has made this truth more clear to me than anyone else. Nathan’s chromosomal abnormality makes him different in many ways: He has facial features that are different. He eats differently. He goes to the bathroom differently. He communicates differently. Probably most obviously, he acts differently. The ways he interacts with his environment and other people and it is well…different. He will paw at toys because he can’t pick them up. If he can pick something up he will immediately put it into his mouth. When he wants to connect with another person he will touch their face, because he has no words.
He is different. Sometimes it’s hard to accept different, but it is not something to fear.
I’m living with differences that are not going to in any way morph into normal. Right now I am learning that no one can try to strong-arm him out of a stage or behavior. No amount of trendy clothing, extra curricular activities, or therapy even, are going to make my son slip in as similar to others. And that’s okay.
I am just beginning to see how amazing it really is to live so dramatically different. Nathan does not care what others think about him. He doesn’t strive to be the same. He is fully and completely himself. It is pretty inspiring to see him learn to do things differently albeit very quirky at times. He is proud of his ways and his interests. Instead of fearing it so much, I am finding him fascinating. I am letting him lead. Whether we like it or not he is showing us the way of different and taking us along with him for a great and amazing ride.
He reveals just how important it is to not fear being different.
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!