This article of mine came out last weekend in three Connecticut newspapers while I was away busy with other things. You can still read it online in the Danbury News-Times (here), the Stamford Advocate (here), and the Connecticut Post (here), or in the text below:
Finding Each Person’s Unique Brand of Specialness
I believe unequivocally that “All men are created equal.” My father used to quip, “Yeah, and some are more equal than others,” but that always infuriated me. In my spiritual journey, I have learned that while all people are definitely equal, each one is unique too.
I think everyone is completely special, even though no one is more special than anyone else, and that each one of us is equally the apple of God’s eye. Nothing taught me this more than parenting.
We have three kids, all equally wonderful, but very different, each with their own unique constitutions and separate needs. The only way I found to navigate the ponderous responsibility of rearing them was through cultivated prayer and discernment. It is overwhelmingly difficult to handle it all correctly, and I’m not sure anyone ever fully has.
Making a zillion little decisions on your kids’ behalf on a daily basis, all you can do is what feels nearest right. Like a sailboat that is slightly off course much of the time, you tack this way and that, catching the wind in your sails the best you can, trusting that eventually you will arrive safely to an acceptable outcome.
Take our son, for example. Many times we were at a loss to know how best to serve this brilliant, sensitive, sometimes difficult child.
Most of the time it was a joyous journey filled with boundless learning, creativity, appreciation, and smiles. But at times he behaved badly and so did we. At whatever stage, we prayed about it, and followed each glimmer of inspiration as we felt led.
In Kindergarten, he spent the year gazing out the window, leaving his phonics worksheets blank. Starting in first grade we homeschooled him, and did so all the way through high school, which was a colossal choice, fueled by prayer.
I turned to God for guidance, accepting God as our son’s true divine parent. We learned that instead of escalating a situation by behaving badly when he did, we needed to just love him through it, and try to keep our equanimity.
In an effort to encourage him to challenge himself and embrace his opportunities, one day I told him how bright he was. He told me I shouldn’t say that. A teenager then, he wanted to fit in.
But I was a steward to his considerable capabilities and sought to shepherd that along. I never dreamed he would think I was saying he was special and other people weren’t. I just wanted our son to own his own brand of specialness.
I wish everyone would know, treasure, and maximize their genuine uniqueness in the face of our mutual equality. I believe each of us has all of God’s magnificent qualities and attributes within us, but that they are combined and integrated in a way that makes us essentially who we are individually, separate from anyone else. I believe that God needs each one of us, just as we really are, and that each of us is terribly important, like a number that if missing, would collapse all of mathematics.
More discernment went into finding a good college fit for our son. Through prayer he ended up at an excellent school that was just the right place for him. It was a delight to see him thrive there more than ever before.
But unlike his sisters, who stay better in touch, we don’t hear from him much. More like a medieval knight, who strikes out alone into the world, he has craved distance from us as he finds his way.
So it also became part of my prayer journey as a parent to release him and be okay with this, and not be a cloying mother demanding time and attention. Instead of grieving that there is not more, I am simply thankful for what is, and leave it at that.
Last week he graduated from Swarthmore College with a double degree in Engineering and Political Science, awarded with high honors. I couldn’t be more proud. His job prospects are glowing. He is socially conscious, intellectually curious, a creative innovator, and using his expanding abilities for good in the world. He has found that delicate balance between his unique specialness and being universally equal. I am so grateful for this good outcome.
Meanwhile, my parental prayer will quietly continue…
by Polly Castor, a Christian Science Practitioner, and member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Ridgefield. She can be reached at PollyCastor@gmail.com