Sour Mike & Ikes: right. Black jelly beans: wrong.
Milk with cookies: right. Milk with pizza: wrong.
Replacing the toilet paper roll: right. Setting a new toilet paper roll on top of the empty cardboard tube: wrong.
I’ll admit: “right” is usually defined by my personal preferences and experiences, so when I encounter something unfamiliar, my brain automatically wants to label it as “wrong.” Try as I may to remind myself that different is neither right nor wrong, the default remains.
2020 = The Year of Different
So you can imagine, the past five months in my brain have been interesting. Because nothing we’ve experienced has been normal. Everything has been different. Everything.
Even the moments in our week as ordinary as getting groceries, going to the gym, or eating at a restaurant throw us curve balls we didn’t expect. Regular errands and tasks have entirely new protocols and it would be easy to dismiss these adjustments as wrong because they’re contrary to our regular way of doing things.
And with all of the challenges 2020 has served up so far, nothing is more different for us moms than the upcoming school year. Whether your school district opted for in-person, hybrid, or online learning plans, the 2020-21 school year will be like nothing we’ve experienced before. Changes in schedules, busing, and lunchtimes will affect our kids each day, not to mention the challenges of online learning and separation from friends.
As we see our kids faced with difficult circumstances, we’ll be tempted to label those situations as “wrong.” How the school district is handling things or our neighbors or sister or friends will be giant traps for judgment and criticism.
So much of the division we’re experiencing all around us stems from a “right” or “wrong” viewpoint. Whether it be the wearing of masks, adherence to social-distancing protocols, or opinions about the upcoming school year, people believe their own opinion to be “right” and contrary opinions as “wrong.” And, unfortunately, neither science nor history can help us out, as there appears to be no consensus scientifically and we’ve flat-out never been here before.
So, what’s a person to do? More importantly, what’s a mom to do? How can we best lead our kids through this polarizing right/wrong environment?
Different Is Okay
Perhaps it’s returning to the premise that different is neither “right” nor “wrong”? Would it be constructive to remember that different is just different? Or go a step further: different is OKAY?
Neither us nor our kids need to shy away from things that are different. We don’t need to be threatened by them or feel the need to understand or control them. We best demonstrate flexibility when we embrace different situations as opportunities and that flexibility leads to personal growth.
We want our kids to grow and learn and adapt. We want them to be flexible and creative and curious. The best encouragement for these qualities is to embrace things that challenge our status quo. We get to model this kind of growth mindset for our kids. Rather than dismiss differences outright, take a moment to investigate, ask questions, and learn. Instead of concluding that different is wrong, advocate that different is just different and, even better, that different is okay.
This graceful, open-minded approach doesn’t minimize your personal convictions or preferences. It just makes room for a differing opinion from the mom down the street. That permission gives everyone room to navigate this new normal for themselves and their family without fear of judgment or criticism. It also challenges us to see the world from a different perspective and rather than concluding that every change to the status quo is wrong, we just might discover different can be a-okay and personally enlightening in the process.
Now, where did I put those black jelly beans?