Monday, May 04, 2015

What do we miss when we are distracted by the small quirks?

From Saturday's Briefing:
No matter how much I love, adore and cherish my children, they can at times be, um, irritating.
One might eat too quickly. The other sometimes nibbles like a baby squirrel.
One child might forget homework assignments at least once a week. Another might steadfastly refuse to fully close a single dresser drawer.
Nothing awful or dangerous. In fact, the simple act of listing them seems trivial.
And yet it’s easy to give those irritants more power than they deserve, to allow them to swell beyond their worth. (And I’m certain they have their own list based on my annoying habits.)
Katie sometimes moves more slowly than I think she should. Breakfast is a drawn-out affair. She’s been known to meander, dodging the most obvious path. At times she dawdles when the occasion calls for alacrity.
There are extended moments when she seems lost in details, missing the bigger picture around her. Her bedroom is a gathering place for an ever-expanding assemblage of tiny, random treasures.
There are a few moments when I’m tempted to exclaim, “Move faster! Eat faster! Stay on the path! Pay attention! Stop saving everything!”
But what would we miss out on if I did?
Tuesday morning was typically slow. We left for school on time, but the structure and speed of her getting-ready process left me puzzled, as usual.
Later that morning, I received an email from one of Katie’s teachers: “Your amazing daughter just shared with me an observation that I’ve never had another child make.”
That one note totally reframed the day. My daughter’s quirks fuel her strengths.
This child finds beauty at every turn. Car rides typically include exclamations to admire the sun’s rays or to look at animals hiding in the clouds.
The bits of “trash” she collects often becomes part of a bigger creation. She made her Halloween costume last year, using cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls to craft a giant narwhal tusk. She was the tallest, easiest-to-find child on the trick-or-treat circuit.
She protects all of God’s creatures, not just the “cute” ones. For a year she was a pescetarian, eating no meat, only seafood. After attending a lobster boil last August — and observing the quick turnaround from living creature to dinner on the plate — she gave up seafood, too, and has been a vegetarian ever since.
There’s a wasp nest just outside our kitchen, nestled in the pocket between the sliding glass and screen doors. Katie is torn between her fear of being stung and her innate desire to protect animals.
As I placed wasp spray in our shopping cart this week, Katie hung her head and whispered, “I wish there were a way to get rid of wasps without killing them.”
Living with people, loving those people, requires more than simply tolerating idiosyncrasies. We’ll all get along better and understand one another when we embrace the quirks as small, essential pieces of the whole person.
I tell my children — and myself — all the time: No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. When we take ownership of our mistakes, we learn and grow.
I need to add to the rotation: Our challenges and imperfections are small pieces of a big picture. I love the whole you — and I love all the tiny pieces.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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