celebrating somebody else

Last week when one New Jersey school board voted unanimously to remove the names of all holidays from the calendar, the reasoning one board member shared was that “if we don’t have anything on the calendar, we don’t have to have anyone [with] hurt feelings…”

Hence, in what’s considered “education,” instead of educating about the beauty of difference, the wisdom in respecting difference, and the even sweeter joy of celebrating difference, this board chose to ignore individual differences in case it’s hurtful to another.

Wouldn’t it be wiser instead of watering down reality, to teach respect of what’s different? 

Years ago when my kids were younger and I was frantically attempting to get my hands on anything that would help a semi-clueless madre get a better grasp on this parenting gig, I picked Dr. Tim Kimmel’s Raising Kids for True Greatness. It was a life saver. 

“What is your goal when it comes to raising your children?” Kimmel asks at the onset. Now let me not fuel any mindset that parents are so in control of their kids; in fact, the older I get, the more manifest the “by the grace of God I go” mantra makes emphatic sense.

But what I love about Kimmel’s insight is that he encourages the reader not to look at another’s kid as in competition with their own; the success, difference, reality of another takes nothing away from me. In other words, instead of being upset that your kid gets the lead in the school play — or your child is chosen for the select soccer team — or your teen gets the solo in the grand finale — andmine does not, as a parent I still choose to celebrate your kid enthusiastically. 

Our differences — our realities in how life is playing out — are not something that need be a lingering source of hurt. If they are, I would hope that the mentors and authentic education encouragers in my life would gently but firmly help me learn how to deal with my perspective. I would hope they would teach me how not to find fault in another nor water down reality, but to instead, sincerely, selflessly celebrate both them and me. 

I have a son many find different. In fact, I have three. Each has distinct gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses… each growing into the man they’re called to be. My youngest, as has been documented here, has Down syndrome. He proudly, sweetly calls it his “ability.”

And while your kid and my kid unquestionably have different skills and “abilities,” our differences don’t lessen another’s reality. My reality is not better nor worse than another. This is the way God has allowed my life to play out, and while it isn’t always easy, I give great thanks. That is my reality.

It’s part of why the Intramuralist has respectfully chuckled with the recent use in some select circles of the term “birthing people” to describe mothers. No disrespect, but I can factually tell you as a mom — even a semi-clueless one at that for a while — I did a whole heck of a lot more than physically give birth. While I understand the supposed political-correctness of the term, let me also suggest that it’s a clear watering down of reality.

What about today? 

It’s Fathers Day. I am so proud of my Dad and of the other excellent fathers in my family and the precious, admirable few who have also served in a comparable role in my life.

But as John Kass wrote in The Chicago Tribune this week, “If moms are ‘birthing persons,’ then what are dads on Father’s Day?”

Kass gets a bit tongue-in-cheek with his continued ramblings… “Americans are being bombarded with ads for gifts for that special day for fathers. Should I say ‘sperm contributors’…?”

Friends, it’s ok to call a person who/what they are. It’s ok for us to have differences. If there is disappointment in acceptance of those differences, no doubt that’s wise to wrestle with. But instead of watering reality down, let’s educate about the beauty of difference, the wisdom in respecting difference, and the even sweeter joy of celebrating difference in another.

P.S. Happy Father’s Day, dads.