Posts Tagged ‘individual’

“Dance, or fade out.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, this waiting at a green light. And for what? I craned my neck to see around the SUV ahead of me, but I had nothing on which to focus my anger. I was just about to lay on my horn with gusto when I saw a man. It must have been like when the Jews saw Jesus walking on the water, except this man was in the middle of an intersection, and he certainly wasn’t Jesus. Oh, and he was dancing.

Earbuds in, swaying to the beat that only he could hear, he wore a leather jacket in 60 degree heat, oblivious to the elements. Oblivious also to the hard stares from the motorists who waited with hands raised above horns, with epithets painting the corners of our lips. We had places to go and things to do, and this man… well, he was standing there dancing.

I love to dance, to sway my hips to a particular beat, usually in the comfort of my own home, but this wasn’t the comfort of his own home. This was the streets of Utica, NY. This was rush hour traffic. Honestly, I’m surprised no one ran him over. If my kids weren’t in the car with me maybe I would have given him a nudge. Okay, I wouldn’t have. And he was an interpretive dancer too, the kind I usually like, but there’s a time and place for everything.

It wasn’t like this was some one man flash mob or something. It wasn’t like this was 2005 or something. A dancing man in the middle of the street against a green light for traffic… it’s just not done. At least not socially anyway. So we sat there waiting for him to shimmy along to what I could only surmise was a Gwen Stefani song, to reach the island in the middle of the street so we could safely pass and flip him off in the process. 

Except no one flipped him off, this dancing man. Maybe because we saw in him a little of our own self-restricted selves, begging to slip free.

And dance. 



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I am fascinated by individual memory, the way we experience the world as it contrasts with the way others view that same world. And it affects everything, from the things we do, to our memories, and beyond. I’m reminded of the years I spent thinking that my mother loved my sister more than she loved me, and all of the “memories” that aided in those thoughts and left me feeling disillusioned. And I thought it was all so clear what had gone on. I had this enormous chip on my shoulder about the whole thing. But then I talked to my sister about 13 years ago and realized that her own ideas differed dynamically from my own. Even though we lived in the exact same house with the same mother we saw things completely different.

That’s when I realized the objective truth was that neither of us was right. Our mother wasn’t so partial to my sister as I had previously thought, but she was firm because she knew I needed it. I think back to my personality back then and I can now see where she was coming from, and why I needed that firm hand. It wasn’t about my sister at all. It had all been about me, and it showed that my mother truly loved and cared for me, that she wanted the best for me. But seen through the eyes of a child who thought the whole world was against him things appeared that way. It was only with the perspective that only distance provides that I was able to see the full picture.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the statement is often true because words come from individual perspectives, and words can be interpreted differently by different people. A picture shows the world as it actually was; whether or not you concur with what it shows is up to you, but the picture itself doesn’t change no matter how many times you view it. In the photo here I recall quite clearly that my sister and I were just sitting there minding our own business when this creepy guy we had never seen before tried to freak us out. The photo is odd because it looks like he’s going to grab me in the next second, but he was just trying to let me know I dropped something. That’s the glory of individual memory because I don’t remember everything about that guy, just his creepy nature, and the picture bears me out. (And if you were curious, yes, I was really looking at that lady’s legs in the background, which might have had something to do with my lack of memory of most else in the scene.)

Yeah, that guy was creepy anyway, even if he really was trying to tell me I dropped something.

My point is that our view of things is always colored by our previous experiences, and since we’re all different, we’ve all been through different situations that color our viewpoints. That’s why people often argue with others over what “actually happened” in any given situation. Sometimes the unique perspectives can lead to funny misinterpretations instead of to devastating issues that lead us to therapy sessions. The key is to make sure you keep the lines of communication open with others so there isn’t that opportunity for things to simmer under the surface and make us angry or sad for no reason, over a miscommunication or over a difference of opinionated memory.

That’s why shared memories aren’t always shared, even when they seem that way. Because maybe they just seem that way to you.


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I believe the biggest mistake parents make is thinking their children are miniature versions of themselves. I will readily admit to making that mistake as a new parent, too, and even now sometimes forgetting that one simple fact, but I strive hard to be better at it.

When I first found out I was going to be a parent, I remember feeling apprehension for several reasons. I worried that my child would be just like me, and I also worried that she would be absolutely nothing like me. I know that seems strange to have oppositional worries, but both were extremely strong. While I wanted her to be an individual, to have her own interests, and her own personality, I couldn’t help also wishing for a mini-me, someone I could identify with because of the similarities. So, of course, when she came, neither one of the wishes I had came true. Instead, it was in the nefarious gray area. She was definitely her own individual, but I could still see so much of myself in her.

And I realize now that this gray area is perfectly fine, that she should fit into this category. Too many parents find themselves seeing those similarities and playing them up, trying to fit their child into the mold they created when they were children themselves. The major problem with this approach is that it stifles the child’s own creativity and drive. If they’re just being a better version of you, why couldn’t you just change yourself to fit the ideal you have instead of trying to live vicariously through your children?

I was watching the movie “Robots” with my youngest child yesterday, and one thing that always strikes me about the film is that each robot is made from parts the parents put together, but for them to grow they need new, larger parts, that are specific to them. When those parts start to decay, they get new ones. That’s a beautiful metaphor for human children, in my opinion, because as children get older they do indeed change, but the change isn’t structured by you. It’s the natural progression, like them getting their “big kid parts,” which in turn become “young adult parts,” and so forth. By the time our children are adults, they have gone through any number of revisions to become individuals, to become their most perfect selves.

So, is it okay to see some of ourselves in our children? Absolutely. Indeed, that’s one of the most special parts of having children, getting to see that smile that is a mix of you and your partner. To hear that laugh that is just as fake as yours. To have that perfectionist streak so she’s not satisfied with mediocrity, just like you. It’s only natural to see those things and feel nostalgic for our own childhoods, but that’s as good as it gets. To stay focused on those things negates everything else your child is that isn’t specific to what you are. Enjoy and embrace your children for every part of their personalities, because before you know it, they will change, and you will have missed this special time.


On Parenting and Parenthood

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