I remember a time when ‘weird’ was one of my favorite words as a kid. “Weird, weird, weird.” I said it all the time. Perhaps it’s one of those words that helps define us. Kind of like, “I’m not that, I’m this.” One of my favorite authors once wrote about how stars are only bright due to the darkness that surrounds them. Something like that.
As I turned the car on to snowy Highway 341 toward Kent, I glanced in the rearview mirror. “You girls must be excited to spend some of your Spring Break with your friends today?” I spoke to the mirror.
“I can’t wait until Spring Break is over!” chirped my kindergartener. Always the unexpected with this one.
“Oh yeah, why is that, honey?” I queried.
“When I get back to school we’re getting a new person in our class!” Lexi’s face was alight with joy, and I detected a marked lack of sarcasm in her voice. These sentiments were absolutely, 100 percent sincere.
“Do you know her name?” I recalled discussing this once before and was fairly certain the new arrival in her class would be a girl.
In the mirror, I watched Lexi shake her head. Then suddenly my second grader, Livi, piped up from Lexi’s right, “I heard there was a new girl in the school named ‘Joshi.’ Joshi! That name is so weird!” An innocent giggle escaped Livi’s lips, her eyes aglow with amusement. Although not a trace of malice or malintent was present in Livi’s words, I frowned. She’d struck a chord.
“Honey, there are no ‘weird’ names,” I calmly stated. “Only names we’re not used to.” Wait, where did that line come from? I must admit, I kind of shocked myself when I said it. Perhaps growing up with a ‘weird’ or unusual name had helped grow an internal sensitivity and defensiveness when hearing such words. Lord knows I had heard versions of that backhanded insult of ‘weirdness’ aimed at me a few times over my lifetime. Or maybe Livi’s comment had struck the built-in ‘raise-your-kids-to-be-kind’ mechanism that triggers my instant parental correction button.
Whatever the reason for my response, my mind suddenly flashed back to the classrooms in which I used to teach. I superimposed the sentiment I had just voiced aloud on some of the behaviors I witnessed in my classrooms many years ago…what if those behaviors weren’t ‘weird,’ but just ones I just wasn’t used to?
Reflecting back on this little slice of my life yesterday, I believe my message to my children had been to remain open. Be accepting. We are all different. And being ‘different’ doesn’t make us ‘weird.’ It makes us human.