By Kristopher Copeland, Red Apple Dad
Everybody loves a good square peg.
You know the type. People like Pablo Picasso, Howard Hughes and Steve Jobs. Andy Warhol, Dr. Seuss and The Beatles. The kind of people who defy conformity and instead, amaze us with their creativity as we kinda shuffle around with the rest of the herd. Maybe we prefer to think of them as rebels, or pioneers, or innovators. Those sound better, right? Well, tough cookies. I’ve got this square-peg/round-hole analogy thing working and I’m running with it.
One of the countless balancing acts of parenthood is figuring out just how much conformity to instill in your child. We want them to fit in, but not be afraid to stand out. Follow the rules, but color outside the lines when it looks right. Exercise their imagination, but don’t wear that Spiderman costume to church. Every day we figure out just how much to sand down the corners of our little square pegs.
At my house, we buy sandpaper in bulk. 40-grit sheets by the caseload and they still can’t seem to remember how to say “please” and “thank you.” But we keep at it. In fact, maybe it’s our constant efforts to raise upstanding citizens that makes me sensitive to nurturing the outstanding citizen that’s inside them.
I recently heard a radio interview which was focused on the skill differential between U.S. and international soccer players. While both groups had a passion for the game, the U.S. players typically grew up with a structured coaching environment. Outside of their scheduled team games, the majority of their time playing was spent in practice, running drills. On the other hand, the international players practically grew up with a soccer ball attached to their foot. The constant neighborhood pick-up matches lacked structure and allowed the players to experiment, try new moves and refine their game beyond just what drills could teach. Such a simple but cool idea. The value of freestyling. Taking a break from the structure to explore something new and different. Failing. Succeeding. Whatever. Just pushing your creative side.
Maybe the desire to be different is something that the innovators are born with. Or maybe it’s something they learned from mom or dad. Maybe while yodeling together and riding imaginary unicorns through the Wal-Mart produce section. I like to think its the latter.
No matter what, I’m trying to sand a little differently these days. The plan is simple enough. They’ll be round enough to fit the societal holes where they need to, but with a nice square top to help them stick out. Yep. I’ll have the children that look like bolts.