There is a funny scene (many actually) in Monty Python’s Life of Bryan. Bryan calls out “you are all individuals,” and the crowd calls out “yes, we are all individuals.” Bryan then calls out, “you are all different,” and all those listening chant, “yes, we are all different.” One man calls out, “I’m not.” Of course, in an ironic dry way which is classic Monty Python, they are mocking group dynamics and the herd mentality. While we all pride ourselves on our individuality, we are often judged as a group or in comparison to others.
My wife and I have two children. The boys are two and a half years apart. They have a lot in common – both are silly, have brown hair, occupation therapy issues, and love hot dogs. The children look alike and people have even confused them for each other.
Being the youngest of four boys, people often compared me to my brothers. As parents, it is natural and oh so tempting to compare your children. Well, despite my experience, I do fall into the trap of comparing my children. Why isn’t he walking now? His older brother did. Why does he have to be so anxious? His younger brother is so easy going. Well, I know why. Despite having the same genes, they are individuals and so different.
This afternoon those differences were on display. We took a family trip to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. We were there for two plus hours. My older son was fascinated and enjoyed many of the displays. He stared at the fish, chastised my wife for not being more kind to the insects, and happily went through the touch tunnel. My younger son quickly grew bored. Few of the displays interested him all that much. When he occasionally engaged, he would grow frustrated. He was ready to leave within the first hour.
So, while we may have nurture in common, our nature remains specific to us. My children are perfect examples of this. They both can stand up and say, “I’m an individual.” I just wish they would both sleep late.