Recently I was asked to do a talk for a mothers group I belong to. The topic was accepting your unique child. I was quite excited by this opportunity as I don't think any two children are exactly alike and I am a passionate believer that temperament explains a lot about the differences between children. There is so much focus in the early years about "Milestones" that its hard for parents to remember that whilst all children share similar developmental stages they all approach the world with own personal style.
For me its about perspective. You can look at your child’s traits in positive, neutral or negative ways. There are lots of synonyms for the word "unique". Some are very positive like; talented, gifted, above average, extraordinary. Some neutral words include; curious, special, eccentric, different. However there are a lot of negative words like; unusual, odd, weird, strange.
For me the challenge of parenting is to love your child (or indeed spouse, friend or family member) warts and all. The thing to remember is that it is our difference that adds richness and colour to the world whether we like it or not.
Often what we worry about when we think of the word "Unique" is how well will our children get a long in the world. Parents can't help but worry about their children's future. We worry about whether or not our children will be able to access the full range of human experiences, like everybody else. Here is the clincher... We worry about difference because it can effect whether or not our children will fit in.
As human beings we are naturally social. Evolution has produced in our brains natural abilities to connect with others. Its about survival of the pack. We take for granted our ability to relate to others, because for most human beings its natural. Yet we have developed a whole set of complex social rules to help the pack survive the conditions it lives in. Some call this society or culture. The pack needs to be able to rely on each other in predictable and consistent ways to maintain this survival. This is why uniqueness is such a threat. It provides a sense of danger and risk taking that threatens survival.
I believe that we can be both unique and fit in with the heard. By teaching children social rules we can show them how to survive. As well if we love our children unconditionally, encouraging their interests and allowing for their temperamental differences we can help build a self-concept with in our children that allows for their own unique self and a sense that there is a place for them in the world. There is a wonderful quote from Proverbs (22:6) that describe this perfectly;
"Train up a child in the way he should go and in keeping with his individual gift or bent, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
I love noticing how similar to me my kids are. I can see so many traits that remind me of when I was a child. I also see a lot of their father in them and each of them have their own spark that's all their own. I can see the challenges they will face and I look forward to witnessing the joy they'll experience in their discovery of the world. I guess it becomes a balancing act of using your own experience and knowledge to guide and teach our children about the rules of the world versus letting them bloom in their own time and way.