Kids, Pets, and other Differences
I had a great conversation the other day about how new parents tend to talk about their children, well… a lot. Suddenly all things “baby” – which had previously been foreign or at least in the margins of adult life – become exciting and full of wonder and surprise, and we just can’t help but talk about the experience. With everyone. Frequently.
So in this conversation it came up that for those people without children, it can be strange to watch friends go from discussing the deep philosophical truths of life, to debating the best way for infants to sleep (on their backs, of course!) and how antibiotics sometimes turn diapers a disturbing shade of green instead of the normal hue. New parenthood is a strange transformation indeed.
And sometimes disconnecting. One person brought up the fact that before she had children, she really struggled to connect with her friends as they became parents. She would try her best to relate, and then at a loss finally decided that the closest she could come to that kind of obsession was with her dog.
And that’s when the real trouble begins, as some of you know. Suddenly everyone is swapping stories about babies and dogs, how cute they are when they sleep and how messy they can be (especially on antibiotics). And somewhere in the midst of it all, the parents get miffed because of course human children cannot be the same as mere pets, and the nonparents are just wishing someone would bring up politics or Koran-burning or something a little less touchy.
There are far too many trip wires in human connectedness. We try our best to understand each other by finding surface-level things in common, and then latch onto those things with a firm grip. But what if we have even deeper things in common, things of the soul, which can only be discovered once we face our differences?
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of being in a mixed small group, meaning that some of us had children, some of us didn’t, and some were trying but couldn’t yet conceive. That’s when I became aware of just how much I talk about our children – how much of my social experience had become centered around them, defining my connections with other adults.
This brought up some questions for me, like:
Who am I really, aside from my kids or pets or career or whatever? Who are you? What are my fears, goals, struggles, failures? What are yours? What inspires us? What have we learned about seeing God’s Kingdom in our daily routine, as different as those routines may be?
We probably have more in common than it seems.
And the issue goes far beyond parents and nonparents. What if a couple comes into our church next Sunday – visitors from out of town –and they’re all dressed in Goth, wearing black from head to toe with dark eyeliner, and maybe some facial piercings? I wonder how we would approach them. Now we’re not rude people, so hopefully we would welcome them and get their names and shake their hands and everything. But then what?
I hope we would try to better understand their views and concerns, without getting stuck on our differences or subconsciously trying to change their fashion preferences. Who are they really? Maybe we could have some great discussions. Maybe we could even learn from each other, despite the initial lack of commonality. It wouldn’t be easy, that’s for sure. Conversations might be awkward at times, and we would need God’s grace in abundance to cover all those social missteps and offenses.
But it’s worth a try, don’t you think?
Posted on Wed, October 13, 2010