No One is Only One: Recognize, Appreciate, & Encourage Complexity

Yesterday I got to spend the evening at the park with my three munchkins.  A high energy and wonderful way to go that helped us all sleep soundly last night.  I love watching these siblings play together!  It’s amazing how my 1yr old daughter keeps up with her brothers.  I cant help thinking about the song lyrics, “Anything you can do I can do better,” when I’m watching her kick up dirt while scampering along after the two big guys who are rounding the bases following an imaginary home run.  This little girl is tough!  She’s also sweet, and smart, and sometimes shy, and curious, and all kinds of other things.  She’s complex.

Then there’s my 5yr old.  When he heard that we were going to move from the playground to the field so that we could eat our picnic dinner under one of the shaded tents, he shot off in a full on sprint.  This kid can run.  In soccer, he doesn’t seem to realize that the ball is supposed to go with him, but he’s by far the fasted one on the field.  And his excitement over running is palpable.  It’s almost like a turbo boost goes off.  His face purses up, his arms get going even before his little knees bend, then he shoots of like the road runner with a cloud of smoke lifting off the ground behind him.

Yesterday he bolted into the filed like he was chasing a gigantic cookie (the kid likes cookies…what kid doesn’t?).  All of the sudden, as if the gigantic cookie grew fangs and pounced on him, he let out a scream to beat all screams.  His pursed, excited look had been transformed into a face flushed with absolute terror.  Remember when you were little and a sibling jumped out from behind a wall, and then shouted, “Boo!”  Remember the rush of adrenaline and terror as you writhed in petrifying shock?  That’s what it looked like.

I said, “What happened?”  I thought maybe a bee sting, a rabid squirrel attack, who knows?  He shook and shouted, “It was chasing me!”

“What?” I asked with compassion.

“A butterfly!!!” He shouted.  He then compassionately turned to his little brother who was on his way into the same field and shouted, “Be careful of the butterflies!!”  Good looking out.

Knowing this child, it didn’t surprise me that he was susceptible to the terrifying advances of a rouge butterfly…he’s cautious let’s say.  He’s also really thoughtful, he’s as smart as they come, he’s creative, he’s loving, and all kinds of other things.  He’s complex.

Earlier in the day my 3yr old saw me doing some landscaping.  I had work boots on, I was dirty, I had all kinds of related tools, and I was focused on the task at hand.  He asked me, “Daddy, why are you a worker?”  He saw my outfit and my actions and connected those things to people he’s seen working in ways similar to the way that I was at the time.  He wanted to know what his daddy was at the moment.  Was I the guy whoes tie he helps take off in the evening, or am I the guy who’s digging in the dirt?

Later, he was lying on my chest.  We were just staring at each other making faces and laughing.  This is a kid who rarely sits still.  If he’s awake, he’s typically moving.  He’s loud and fast and not terribly gentle.  He typically leaves a line of broken lamps and falling picture frames in his path.  But when it comes to staring, making faces, and laughing, he can sit still for a while.  A few minutes in he asked, “Why do you have hair in your nose (a question that should be reserved for a kid and his dad)?”

I thought for a moment, and then started, “Because I’m….”

Then he chimed in, “…old?”  I suppose that’s part of it.

He’s wild at times, he’s calm at times, he insatiably curious, and he’s energized and excited at times.  I’m old at times, I’m young at times, I’m a worker at times, I’m a thinker at times, and sometimes I’m all kinds of other things.  We’re complex.

People are complex.  Complexity is like individualized diversity.  As parents and educational leaders I feel strongly that we should be working hard to recognize, appreciate, and encourage complexity in ourselves and in those we serve.  All too often we’re pigeonholed.  We sometimes speak in generalities and finalities, even though we know that all people have the ability to change as we grow.   And even though we know that we are each much more than meets the eye.

To throw one more in…we should not be judging books by their covers.  Let’s give everyone in our lives the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s not worry about complexities that seem worrisome, but instead, let’s be thoughtful about them, and consider how they relate to positive progress.  Let’s view them simply as aspects of personalities and portions of abilities, as opposed to defining and unwavering characteristics.  Let’s work to identify the strengths that are implicit in our complexities, and let’s celebrate that each one, butterfly sensitivity and tough little sister-ness alike, can contribute to our individual and collective learning and growth in miraculous ways!


Dream Big.  Work Herd.  Be Well.

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