Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vive la Differénce

The high school selection process in Chicago leaves every child feeling what it is to be a "have" and a "have not". Even the child who achieves his goal and receives acceptance at a preferred school must feel the slight tinge of regret that a friend won't be with him or another might be jealous or resentful. No one gets to be joyful or excited without some damper. Of course, those who do not succeed in being accepted at their school of choice plummet to great distress, anxiety, sadness and self doubt. 'You', society has told them, 'are the "have nots". Please step aside.'

Quite a lesson at thirteen.

But then, let's look at it more carefully: I haven't got a giraffe and I'm doing just fine. You haven't got your own private jet. Feeling that burn? Almost all of my closest friends have Master's degrees, some multiple degrees. Mother Theresa didn't have any degrees at all. I rather think she did alright. Some cities have a view of the ocean. Mine doesn't. And there's no convincing ocean-view people, BTW, that a lake view is the same thing. I've tried. So I'm a have-not, so are you, and so was Mother Theresa. I think she made a career out of it! Would society think of her as a loser? Those people in million-dollar condos on Lake Shore Drive? They don't even live in houses! And they don't have ocean views! Have NOTS.

One of my daughters got into an accelerated college prep program. The other got into a science magnet. The accelerated one has pin-straight hair. The younger one has curls even curls envy. My son's got curls and he got into an accelerated program. But he's only got a minor role in the play. The curly one's got a lead role. The pin-straight-haired one was always too chicken to try out; she worked the sound board. My oldest is my shortest. The one who was born the smallest is now the biggest. The middle child is treated like the family baby. The baby could probably buy beer for the rest of them. (I do have to watch that...) Pick the one who's the 'have not'.

I'm fascinated that society thinks they're telling my kids something when they tell them they are 'have-nots'. We're all 'have nots' if you just turn your head a little. What's the difference between what you've got and what I've got if we're both happy? I've told my kids all along:

Keep your eye on the ball, the end-game. What do you really want? To be happy. Focus on that. Don't worry about the haves and the have-nots. In the end, none of that matters. In fact, enjoy that you've got what you've got and he's got what he's got if that's what brings you both pleasure. Celebrate it. Life is good. And I love you. You make me proud.

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