The Boston Marathon bombers’ mother swears that her boys are innocent. “It’s some kind of hoax,” she keeps repeating. I’m watching her words tick across the bottom of a muted television in my Dentist’s office. I can only read the larger headlines from across the room, not her actual words. Why do they silence the volume? We’re all sitting here struggling to read the small type. She is gesticulating madly and I manage to surmise that she truly believes her boys are good, solid citizens, going to school, chasing the American dream. Who could actually believe their offspring were capable of killing and maiming hundreds of people in a violent, inhumane terrorist attack?
I think I could. Honestly. I think I pretty much can assess my boys’ capabilities to do evil rather accurately. At this point in their young lives I can sincerely boast that terrorism is not on either of their agendas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if your kid commits a heinous act of violence, your only means of self-preservation is denial.
I have a friend who takes pride in asserting that her kids are average. She says it all the time. Laughs when she tells people. “My kids are average looking, average intelligence, average in every way.” I used to think she said it to stun other parents who were gloating about their children being intellectually gifted or having some kind of superior artistic or athletic prowess. But now I think she actually believes it.
I don’t see my kids as anywhere near average. But maybe that’s my version of bomber mom’s denial. The other night we went to my 12 year old son, Levi’s, Spring Showcase at school. I can tell which teachers recognize his unique inner sparkle and which do not. Some of them see him as average and I know they are missing the boat entirely. They seem more focused on what he inadvertently blurts out in class or his messy hand-writing. I feel sorry for those teachers. They don’t see his quirky creative mind or his sunny, delightful disposition. They want him to fit in, to act like everyone else, to be…average.
I try to teach my kids how to “act” average so that they do fit in in school, with peers, in life. It’s a challenging task for a mom who believes whole-heartedly in shining your inner light and allowing the world to see you for who you really are. But the world of kids celebrates “average.” I can’t tell you how many teachers, administrators, and therapists have warned us about the ever-encroaching middle school madness where fitting in is the only way to get by and standing out in any way makes kids automatic bullying targets. I want my boys to know how to fit in.
But the more I teach them to fit in, the more I remind them that it’s only an act. That in society we all learn tools to make our lives easier, more comfortable, less stressful. Fitting in is one of those tools. But it doesn’t mean you stop thinking, acting and believing in all of the charming inner traits that make you unique and extraordinary. That’s the louder message I hope to convey. And if that puts me somehow in the same category as my pal who really sees her kids as average, or bomber mom, who’s incapable of seeing who her children have become, so be it. I’ll live in denial. Recognizing indubitably that my children are spectacularly gifted with a sense of kindness, a creative wisdom, and a flair for the eccentric that sets them apart from the pack, and that if used well, will bring them success, inner fulfillment and joy as they share it with the world.