87. The Different Drummer

I’ve gradually discovered that most children, and most adults, march to the tune of a different drummer. Nobody is like everybody else, and yet most people, at various points in their lives, feel isolated – wish that they were “normal,” like everyone else. It may be that the only one who really is isolated is that one poor soul who is marching to the “same” drummer. In fact, maybe the drummer is marching alone.
Each one of us has a different combination of ideosyncrasies that make us feel isolated. Of course, there’s the boy who doesn’t like “boy things,” and the girl who doesn’t like “girl things.” The truth is, everybody has different ideas about what the “boy things” and “girl things” are, and however hard advertisers try to create and perpetuate stereotypes, publicly or privately, people like what they like. When I was five years old, I wanted to play house – especially play kitchen. Since I was the only boy playing house, Barbara, who was in charge (it was her house), told me that I had to go to work, which meant I had to go to the other side of the house and sit there; I didn’t know what people really did when they went to work.
In school, there is a large enough group to create what seem to be norms. Some children have charisma, and seem to be able to define the norms. But I’ve had private conversations with many children over the years, and though occasionally I’ve spoken with children who knew they had charisma, they usually felt that the charisma was just an effective disguise, hiding the person inside who was weird.
I have many adult friends now, and knowing the secret I’m telling you now has made it easy to make friends. I don’t have to worry that someone will think I’m unusual. Occasionally, someone will be annoyed by my “strangeness”, but most will be relieved by it; they’re unusual, too, and a lot of them thought they were the only ones.
As you march to the tune of whatever drummer you march to, I hope your children can see what’s happening. They may be embarrassed at first, and that’s got to be respected, too. Children don’t liked to be embarrassed. But I think it’s even more important to give children the message that everybody’s different.

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