For the last two years, I had the same conversation with my now 9-year-old son about valentines:
ME: Do you want to make or buy valentines this year?
HIM: I want to make them. I don’t want to have the same ones as everyone else.
Oh yeah, I think, smugly, I’m not raising a lemming. He wants to be unique! I then dig out my large tote full of rubber stamps. (For a while, I was expressing my creativity through rubber stamping -- yes, I get the irony.)
ME: What do you want on your valentines?
HIM: I don’t know. What are they supposed to have?
ME: It doesn’t matter. You can use anything! How about a fish?
HIM: I don’t think they’re supposed to have fish.
That’s when my smugness evaporates. Supposed to? That’s the lemming mantra. I’m a failure!
Each year I explain that there are no rules to valentines. When you slap a Kit Kat on the back and give it to your classmate on Valentine’s Day, BAM!, it’s a valentine.
My son wants to be unique but not TOO unique. 'Cause then you’re weird. Well, isn’t that tricky? The spectrum between unique and weird changes with each person you meet! To some people, everything that’s unique is weird.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible to be interesting if at least a few people don’t think you’re a bit weird. Following every cultural rule is a great way to be bland.
“Yes! My kid fits in perfectly. I'm so proud of how bland he is.” Who says that? Nobody says that.
But, people suck at tolerating weirdness. We want to stand out, but in the right way. Fear of standing out in the wrong way has us not standing out at all. Better to hide in the masses than be singled out as a weirdo.
This year, my son again said he'd prefer to make valentines but when it came time to do them, he decided he'd help with his little brother's cards. "I'll just give the Kit Kats, mom, that's all anybody cares about anyway."
Well, that's true, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to be that cynical at nine. It took me years to work up to that. (Hooray! He's advanced!)
My favorite part of everyone I know is the part that makes them unique, because that's how love works. People capture our attention with their quirks, without them, what's to differentiate any of us?
So, today, I'm celebrating all the weirdos in my life. Thank you for being interesting enough for me to notice you!
I like to throw things.