The Folly of Perception

I’ve been on the outside looking in since I was a little kid. Failing to assimilate, I worked at cultivating unique and different. After achieving this coveted perception, I no longer wish to possess it.

Unique often translates into strange. And as the mother of a 10 and an 8 year old, I do not want to be perceived as strange or different. I want to blend like homogenized milk and give my kids the platform to fit in, be a part of. What I don’t want is for either of my children to be “that kid with the weird mom,” though I fear I may already be there.

My kids still hold my hand, and not just in parking lots or crossing the street. They both still love to snuggle. I am their first choice to talk to, confide in, way beyond their dad, which makes me feel valued, respected and deeply humbled all at the same time. I realize this level of intimacy probably won’t [and perhaps shouldn’t] last as they grow and find their own path, but I don’t want my kids to ever be ashamed of me. I want to be proud of them. I want them to be proud of me.

I try to fit in. I go to the soccer games and the ballet classes and I wait around with the other parents and try to blend. But I don’t. And I get that they notice I don’t. I look different. I’m one of the oldest among them, by a good margin. My kids came late, after six pregnancy losses. I dress for comfort so most everything I have is rather loose. I don’t wear make-up. My hair is long and fine and all over the place. It refuses to stay pulled back in the scrunchy. I never quite look ‘put together.’

But looks aren’t the only thing that separates me.

Through the years I’ve come to realize that I don’t think like most people. The glass wall between me and most of humanity is not just me being paranoid. There is a casualness the parents seem to have with one another as they discuss their kids, or some celebrity or popular new show. I stand there and nod my head when it seems appropriate, but I don’t watch much TV, and really don’t care that Tyler is playing basketball now which conflicts with his sister’s dance schedule.

I’ve tried engaging more personally, ask about jobs, interests outside of family, broached news and current events, but taking a position and endeavoring to discuss it has mostly been met with polite blank stares. Everyone is careful with their words—politically correct and upbeat. I’m neither, and over the years I’ve learned to shut up to avoid discord. The conversations usually segue back to their kids and related activities around family, school, church, which as atheists we don’t attend. I invariably check out of the exchange and focus on the event at hand and cheering on my children.

The game or recital ends but everyone stays and continues talking. I’m on the outside again, feels like I’m lurking while I linger to give my kids time to play. I stand there watching them all integrate, proud of my children for choosing to, and of myself for giving them the opportunity when I’d rather just leave. I watch the parents gaily chat and wish I fit in like that. The folly of unique and different is it’s really quite lonely out here.

2 responses to “The Folly of Perception”

  1. Hello J. Cafesin. I have your two workbooks on Lean Startup marketing and Lean Startup Branding. How can I access the slides that are available in the two workbooks? I am a professor of Entrepreneurship in Minnesota, and those slides would be very helpful. Sorry to bother you with this. By the way, I loved your blog about the deep value of your relationship with your children.

    1. Hey Tony. The slides should be in the online version and the print version of both books. I don’t understand why you can’t see them. I do have additional slides, the ones I offer in my webinars (which I’ll gladly present as a speaker for your classes if you’d like). If you check out this page, you’ll see many lectures I taught at Berkeley and Stanford, but in webinar form–small, agile bits: https://www.ippglobal.org/ipp-talks. Scroll down to the bottom of each TALK to view the decks. Please reach out with additional questions should they come up to this email: connect@ippglobal.org. Best, Jeri Cafesin

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