Or maybe it seems that everyone else around you is weird?
Oh, come on, I can't be the only one.
This is a lesson I've been working on learning for literally years now: how to be completely content with being different than people around me.
I've analyzed this a lot. Why does it bother me so much when people make different choices than I do, parent differently than I do, allow/disallow different things than I do?
I think the answer lies in how I interpret different choices. When someone makes a choice different than mine, I've always interpreted that as, "I considered your choice but had good reason for not choosing it." That led me to feel as though I was missing something or had made the wrong choice.
This might actually apply in some cases. For example, Mom A might allow her children to play a certain video game while Mom B forbids that game. It's quite possible that Mom A doesn't realize how violent the game actually is because she hasn't checked it out herself. What I've learned lately is that it's also quite plausible that Moms A & B just have differing views on tolerable video games for their kids. Mom B probably can't be convinced that they're making equally acceptable choices though when she feels that her standards are set correctly.
Then there are issues such as foods and drinks. I was at a church breakfast several months ago when a volunteer asked us what drinks we would like. Nora asked me what kind of milk they had because we have several kinds in our home refrigerator (skim for Jared, 2% for kids, lactose-free for me, etc.). Another mom at the table loudly told me that she never ever allows her children to have chocolate milk. Ever. I mentally prayed and begged Nora not to mention that my kids drink chocolate milk every single day.
I left that breakfast feeling bad about myself as a mom. All because an outspoken mom felt I should raise my kids according to her standards. Sometimes I interpret other people's comments this way ("You should do as I do") when in reality they aren't implying that at all. But I can tell you that in this particular case, this particular mom does think her choices are the only correct ones.
Somehow food has become a popular category for these little skirmishes where two people have different standards. Some only eat organic, some don't eat meat, some consume artificial sweeteners to lower calories, and some never consume artificial sweeteners. Some eat a low-calorie diet, some eat a low-fat diet, some eat a low-carb diet, and some eat a low-budget diet. We all have our opinions on what is acceptable to eat, and I'm pretty sure you'll never find another person who has the EXACT same diet and guidelines that you do.
My diet has changed so much over the years. I had strict standards when I was losing weight. Then I had to make changes to account for becoming lactose intolerant and discovering various trigger foods for my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I used artificial sweeteners to cut out calories while losing weight. Then I cut out artificial sweeteners when my body wouldn't digest them. I relaxed my diet when I reached the stage of maintaining my weight. Then I gained a little when we went on vacation and then moved and then had the holiday season. My diet changed again so I could lose the extra weight.
I can't expect other people to make the exact same food choices that I do. I can't expect other people to boycott onions just because they hurt my belly more than any other food on the planet. Do any of you agree with me that olives are hands-down the most disgusting food there is?
Of course food is just one tiny area where we might disagree. Parenting has to be the most heated category for disagreements. I've made my choices on things like breastfeeding, how to get babies to sleep on their own, potty training, discipline, etc. I have a lot of choices left to make.
It is EXHAUSTING to constantly compare my own choices with those of everyone around me. There is value is seeing what other people choose, and especially why they make their choices, so I can make an informed decision. But I've often take it too far, losing my own perspective as I consider other people's.
All of these rambling thoughts came to the forefront recently when we met a family at school. Both of my boys have grown fond of a boy in Nolan's class, and that boy's mom invited us over for a playdate. I was so excited. She seemed so nice, and I knew her son got along well with my boys. Plus I was ecstatic that she asked me to come along so I could get to know them better.
Our visit to their house was a constant reminder that people around me are not clones of me. She offered my kids organic fruit pops for an after-school snack. I was super happy with that healthy snack choice, but I knew that my kids often eat things like Goldfish or Pringles for their after-school snack. She characterized herself as a "free spirited mom" who doesn't impose many rules on her kids. I think we could all agree that I fall more in the "overbearing" category as a mom. The toughest part of our visit was when I tried to explain Griffin to her. She had never heard of Asperger's, and when I said it's a form of autism, she either hasn't heard of autism or doesn't believe in it. She wasn't clear.
I would normally think we're just not compatible with this family. However, our kids really enjoy each other. So we reciprocated the invitation and had them over to our house yesterday. After a little mental processing on my part, I decided just to be me. I still wanted my kids to behave and share and use manners. I still cleaned my house. I spent too much time trying to decide what to serve for an after-school snack. But I made no apologies about who we are. I didn't try to cover up the ways in which we're different.
This was a big step for me.
The overall message is: This is us. We don't drink alcohol, we don't cuss, we are super involved at church, we buys foods that are on sale, we let our kids eat candy and drink chocolate milk, our house is a completely different style than yours, we love each other like crazy, we tend to raise our voices, I am fiercely protective of my children, my kids are far from perfect, I have a horrible memory, and I tend to say awkward things when I'm nervous. But if you want to be friends, I'm in.
I'm learning to accept that sometimes I'm weird. And sometimes I'm super normal and the other guy is weird.
I never want to get to the point of being close-minded, assuming that I'm always right. But my focus had to shift. I am moving from changing what other people think I should change to seeking God's guidance and changing what He asks me to change. That's the key to finding the balance between "I need to change everything about myself" and "I don't need to change one thing about myself."
I'm re-reading the book Jesus Calling this year, and this is what the devotion for yesterday said:
Stop judging and evaluating yourself, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority; sometimes, a mixture of both. I lead each of My children along a path that is uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is meaningless.Seems like a perfect message for me on the day when I hosted the which-one-of-us-is-weird family.
Don't look for affirmation in the wrong places: your own evaluations, or those of other people. The only source of real affirmation is My unconditional Love. Many believers perceive Me as an unpleasable Judge, angrily searching out their faults and failures. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I died for your sins, so that I might clothe you in My garments of salvation. This is how I see you: radiant in My robe of righteousness. When I discipline you, it is never in anger or disgust; it is to prepare you for face-to-Face fellowship with Me throughout all eternity. Immerse yourself in My loving Presence. Be receptive to My affirmation, which flows continually from the throne of grace.
So I'm working on this, and making progress (I think).
Here's to being weird and loving it!