My kids were three and one, the year we joined a neighborhood play group. The moms in the group would alternate hosting, and I looked forward to the weekly social interaction for both my kids and me.

One week, however, my kids weren’t interacting. They were sitting amidst the mayhem–miniature grocery carts and firetrucks whizzing by, block towers erecting, and baby dolls being dragged around by one leg–but my two little angels were completely disengaged.

They were both completely mesmerized by the television over in the corner. After wiping the drool which had leaked from their frozen expressions, and trying repeatedly to break the spell, I decided that the TV was going to win unless I did something. So I asked our hostess if we could maybe turn it off.

She looked at me like I was the one drooling under a spell, and said, “Well, we just always leave it on.” Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I pressed on and said, “Oh, well, I was thinking maybe my kids might play better with the others if it was off.”

You might have thought I had asked her to turn off her electricity and rub sticks together for fire, but she did what I asked. I think mine were the only kids who noticed that Thomas was no longer puffing along the track. Obviously, they had all seen this episode before.

This was the first time I remember feeling rather Ugly-Duckling-ish, as a parent. I hadn’t realized I was so different from the others. But gradually I’ve learned that ‘different’ isn’t necessarily bad. Each time Jesus placed a new baby in my family, he didn’t tell me to fall into step behind all the other good parents in my neighborhood or play group or even my church. The only person he asks me to conform to is himself. And so, if I’m carefully considering the needs of my individual child, and asking God to lead me, chances are I’ll look a little Ugly Duckling-ish from time to time. But I’m okay with that. Are you?

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