Differences Differently

I have been thinking about differences lately. I think it is probably because the beginning of the school year makes me super anxious. We happen to have a kid who operates a little differently than other kids and so when we enter the conformity castle again every fall, it is rough. I have been thinking a lot about how he thinks and how to make school easier for him, how to keep him out of trouble, how to get him organized, how we manage his teachers and do homework at night, all the things I have been told that I have to figure out for him because he supposedly can’t do it for himself and because it will make school so much better for him if we do figure this all out. It seems a little mixed up to me. Mixed up because I am pretty sure that he is a round kid trying to be shoved into a square box and he ain’t ever gonna fit there. And I am wondering if all that shoving could somehow be lessened if we thought a little differently about differences.

I call school the conformity castle because if you think about it, starting in kindergarten, kids are taught to follow rules. And not the rules that govern being kind and honest, morality rules, I am talking about the rules about standing in a straight line, talking only at the appropriate times, sitting still, making friends, being social and studying so you get an A. And when you are not one of the kids who can do all those things you are often labeled as weird or different or naughty or bad. Sameness is good, especially in school. And think about the implications of learning that as a kid. What does learning that “sameness is good” and “difference is bad” do to how we act as adults? I think it probably limits how we think.

These words are coming from the ferocious mother bear arena but even there I have begun to think differently about differences, all of them. I have learned how to talk to my super smart, full of energy boy, learned strategies I can use to get through homework and how I can be 100% positive all the time and really it has been more about educating me rather than changing him. It is actually not really about him at all, it is about me being more understanding and knowing more about how he operates and I am sure learning at some point how to fight for him. I have also started to listen and look and react to differences around me in a new way. Maybe more open, maybe more conscious but for sure more tolerant. And it is hard sometimes because I, too learned the sameness rules very early. The biggest benefit of thinking about differences differently though, is I think I may be becoming different myself.

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Author: Eileen O'Toole

A quick service restaurant vet who loves food, teaching, learning and being a single Mom. Believes that waking up each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face can change the world.

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