Differences can be blatant and prominent or subtle and unnoticed. What makes something stand out, seem awkward, or beg to be stared at? How do differences – slight or glaring – lead to discomfort, awkwardness, or making someone feel unworthy?
Something as simple as a name. Something as important as a name. When my first son was born, his name caused confusion, discomfort, and struggles. I know! Can you believe that? Our extended family was unsure how to pronounce it. The doctor’s office never got it right. In fact, in one office, we had them change our son’s name to “Chuck” in their records. After that, whenever they called him back – they got it right.
It’s a laughable situation and no one was ever hurt by it. Now, years later, the discomfort among family and friends has disappeared. They are accustomed to the pronunciation of his name, and it doesn’t seem weird or unusual anymore. Exposure leads to understanding, tolerance, and respect.
I hesitated to share this as a flaunt. It’s so silly. And, then the middle school sent home a paper addressed to “Ivan” (my son’s name is ilan – see? I even have to spell it with a small “i” so you know it is an “i” next to an “l”. It’s not Ian.) I don’t have a son named Ivan. I realized that wherever he goes, there is a new group of people who must learn and become accustomed to his name. He stands out. He will always stand out. Teachers must learn the correct pronunciation. New friends must become accustomed to an “awkward” name. Until it seems natural and normal.
It made me think how easy my son’s “flaunt” is and how challenging other flaunts are. I began to think about my other children and how each of them has something they carry with them – that others cannot see, perhaps, – but that defines them, that they have to live with, that they have to learn how to maneuver through life with.
And, then I started to think about motherhood. Moms always feel that they are lacking – patience, organization, the ability to put a healthy meal on the table. Perhaps, there truly are areas where our mothering can be improved. There is always something we can work on to do better. But, really, we have all that we need to make it through the day and to thrive through our lives. Our children should know that too, and they should learn it from us. Our children should be proud to flaunt all that they have and all who they are. My son’s name, ilan, often leads to a discussion of his Jewish heritage – something he is proud of and does not hide. He flaunts!