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D – 17 (Family differences)

Counting down the days until Beth’s thirteenth birthday with a few reposts from the archives.

Originally posted: Aug 11, 2003, Beth’s age: 6

Over the years Cheryl has sometimes been a little quick to claim: “Beth is just like you John.”

She might be referring to any of a number of little things.

Beth saying something smart. Beth sitting in strange, contorted positions while watching TV. Beth exploring the limits of her abilities, improvising when necessary to achieve a goal (usually something Cheryl doesn’t want her to do). These are all examples of when Cheryl might invoke the “you’re just like your father” excuse for her behavior.

To me, these moments can be gratifying and frustrating. Seeing someone taking after you is one of the great joys of parenthood. It is a given your kids will inherit some things from you. It’s quite another thing to actually see this little person grow into their own, with just a pinch of you thrown in the mix. But just when you are patting yourself on the back for molding a precious little child… you see her do something else that you recognize – something that you don’t like. Do you put yourself in time out too?

Then there are the moments when you wonder if your child was switched at birth. Cheryl and I are both relatively quiet. We tend to shy away from attention. In school I was voted “least likely to raise my hand.” When asked about me, my former teachers recall a kid that sat in back and didn’t say anything. They may recognize my face, but I gave them no reason to remember my voice. Now here comes Beth, the original whirlwind of activity. In many cases, life is one great big performance for Beth.

What brings all of this up? We were sitting in church Sunday morning. All of the children of the congregation were called up to the front for the children’s sermon. The first thing you need to know is there is nothing subtle about Beth’s march to the front of the church for the children’s sermon. Her gait is a cross between a high-stepping march and a sprint. The echo of her stomping feet on the concrete floor, reverberating through the sanctuary, sounds as if the congregation broke out in applause. Once everyone was settled (and the clatter died down), the pastor asked all of the kids to imitate different kids of animals. Two kids went before Beth and took the obvious choices: cat and dog. Beth was called on next. Her parents waited with morose anticipation. Did we really want to see Beth at the Improv, with the symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion lurking in the background? She got down on her hands and knees and went “naaay…. nay”. After a moments reflection the pastor replied, “what a great horse your doing Beth.”

Beth indignantly replied, “I’m not a horse, I’m a unicorn!”

Never in a million years would I have thought to pick a unicorn when placed on the public spot like that.

Never in two million years would I have chosen to correct the pastor in front of a full houses.

No, Beth’s choice was not that extraordinary, nor was her decision to correct the pastor. It just struck me that it wasn’t me standing up there. It was another person, a work in progress. That person is a little of me, a little of my wife, and a whole lot of herself.

You may be thinking I’m easily impressed by the mundane. You may be thinking that I have a flair for pointing out the obvious. I’m thinking that life is 90% mundane and 75% obvious.* I think trick is finding the miracle in the mundane and working a little fun into the obvious.

* Statistical analysis with the assistance of the great Yogi Berra.

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