Sunday, May 11, 2008

The courage to compare

When our son first emerged, he seemed to us quite a special fellow: Unusually tiny, and endowed with both a particularly fulsome crop of downy hair and unique peculiarities, like a persistent leftward-twisting of his head.

Then we brought him to the paediatrician's. In quick succession, babies were spotted that were clearly smaller, or sported far more impressive natural headcoverings. There was even one, of Japanese extraction, that evinced those selfsame leftward head-twists. We were, if not crushed, certainly brought down a peg.

The moral drawn might seem to be that parents should smother the instinct to compare their offspring with those of others. We would thereby be spared the anguish of relearning, time and again, that there are always cuter, smarter, darngoshweirder little ones.

Taking that route, however, is to do more than just fail in understanding, to not grasp the more important sense in which Sonny is different from all other comers. We dismiss here an almost trite truth: That the specific bundle of multiple traits that he comes wrapped in is probably not elsewhere replicated. Sonny, in other words, isn't just unique in the way a fingerprint is. More profoundly, he is also an open timeline: He will embody a story that will develop in a way none other has - albeit, in the early years, with the multivaried input from his parents.

The follow-up poser is then: How do we ensure that we continue to put everything into providing the richest, most profound and most responsible parental output? Well, it may require us to stubbornly behave as though Sonny were utterly unique... even in the ways that we know he is not. After all, to dim the awareness that something of ours is special (whether a child, a creation of art or a business venture) may be to dial back the intensity with which we invest our energy and passion.

Against that risk, what's a little disappointment now and again?