My wife loves eating kimchi with spaghetti. I always thought that was kind of weird.
But you know who else loves eating kimchi with spaghetti? N, our boy.
Actually, N loves kimchi. I think we first introduced to him as a joke, seeing if he’ll eat it. He hasn’t stopped eating it since. He’s more Korean than my brother.
N will goes as far as drink the kimchi juice after he eats all the kimchi.
Never (ever) did I think the phrase, “Eat more vegetables, then you can have more kimchi” would be spoken from my mouth.
But that’s normal in our home.
Normal is relative.
Most of the time, normal is boring.
Yet, sometimes I try so hard to have N be “normal.” I don’t even really know what that means or look like if I’m honest.
He loves wearing rain boots — even if it’s not raining.
On a hot, humid Texas day (read: everyday in Houston), he’ll wear shorts, a tank top, and finish that off with his black rubber rain boots.
And the first thing I always say is, “Don’t you want to wear your sandals?”
“No. Rain boots, please”
Then I’ll say something under my breath like, “Don’t you want to, at least, look like everybody else?”
Which is hypocritical on my part.
I was the one during a Residence in Ministry meeting (RIM — let’s just describe it as mandatory meetings if you want to be ordained) with the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) members where I called them out saying they wanted candidates that fit a certain mold. Those who weren’t close to that mold were scary and the BoOM (system) does its best to institutionalize us until we fit that mold. I remember saying something of the matter, you want to tame us and institutionalize us and get rid of the creativity and differing ideas that we may have to offer. They denied it vehemently. But deny it all they want, there’s truth to that. You need institutionalized people to keep the institution going. And on our bad days, there’s no denying that we are an institution. Some BoOM members would even say at the time of the oral exams, “Yes, that was the exact response I was looking for.” Which to me says, they do have a certain image of clergy in mind.
I was the one imploring my youth kids to be different; to express themselves; to go against the flow; dare to be different; and all the other clichés out there. I genuinely meant what I said to them.
I was the one fighting from being “normal” and urging others to be weird and different — that there’s beauty in that; that God didn’t create us to be the same.
But when it comes to N — I guess at times, I’m worried that he’ll never … be normal; find his place in the world. That he’ll never really fit in with peers his age. That my past sins of being mean and making fun of other kids will bite me in the ass through kids making fun of N.
I’m a worrier.
I know N will be fine.
Yet, I still worry. And it’s the worrier that wants him to put on slippers rather than rain boots on a hot, humid day. It’s the worrier that wants him to go with blue and not pink in public places. It’s the worrier that thinks he’ll be ostracized and alone in school.
But when I get a moment to step back from the worrier, I laugh and ask, “Who the hell cares?”
I’d rather N be 100% N than force him to live up to what society and culture deem normal.
We have our own “normal” — and that’s wearing rain boots outside when there’s not a cloud in the sky and it’s 105°. It’s eating kimchi with a side of spaghetti then downing the kimchi juice in the bowl. It’s listening to Katy Perry’s TGIF and Fireworks and Farmer in the Dell on every time we get in the car (okay — but that needs to change soon, for sanity reasons).
The world would be utterly boring if everyone was normal.
The world needs the joy, laughter, and energy that N has to offer.
And the best thing I can do for N is to encourage him to be the person God created him to be and not the person society expects him to be.