Today we had a delayed St. Patty’s Day with my prek nuggets. Because, big shock, it snowed last week. Welcome to Ohio.
Anyway, after we did a four leaf clover search outside we used marshmallows to paint green clovers on construction paper (a dangerous mission considering marshmallows look so tasty, even covered in thick green paint). Some finished earlier than others (and ate some mallows without paint. Or not. I did have one green faced child walking out the door) and drew me some pictures.
One friend drew a lovely picture of a world where everything was a different color than reality, because she just wanted to know what it looked like. The sky was pink, the grass was purple, but for some reason the dirt was still brown. Apparently she wasn’t curious about dirt being a different color.
She ran up to me and put the crayon portrait directly in my vision, like touching my face it was so close, and she exclaimed, “THIS IS FOR YOU!”
“Yeah?” I said as I uncomfortably leaned back so I could actually see the picture. “Can you tell me about it?”
“The sky is pink, and the grass is purple, and this is us!” She screamed with joy, pointing at two sticks with circle shaped projections. “We are clovers! This one is you (she points to the right hand clover) and this one is me (she points to the left).”
“How come you’re so much bigger than me?!” I said jokingly. I figured she would laugh and say something silly like, “cause it was funny.”
She didn’t. She smiled at me and tipped her head and said, “I just grew more when the sun came out.”
I couldn’t respond. My heart clenched, my throat tightened, I was going to cry about a goddamn clover. Such a little thing, and I was choked up. But I wasn’t sure exactly why.
I couldn’t think about it then, because there was a child standing over the marsmellow bag shoving his cheeks full of puffed sugar that needed attending to. But later, after all the nuggets had left, I thought…
All the times I placed myself next to others. When I got mad that I couldn’t run as fast or swing the bat as hard or jump as high or learn as quickly, all those times I compared myself were answered in one sentence by a 6 year old girl.
“I just grew more when the sun came out,” she said in the same way as she would have said, “I had chicken nuggets for lunch.” Like it took no thought. Like it’s no big thang.
Isn’t it important to measure ourselves against others? It feels like it is. (Dad joke: when a pro golfer was asked, “how do you measure yourself against other golfers?” He responded, “by height”.)
But now that I hear her little words, I don’t think so. I don’t understand at what point in our lives it became important, but it’s not. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t compare myself somehow to others. On tests or in sports or employment. Everything I do, I consciously or subconsciously compare myself.
Comparison is a thief. I keep hearing that from friends and on social media or the radio, I see it in different forms when I walk into schools and coffee shops. Wherever, it just seems like it’s everywhere! Whenever things are on my mind they show up. Or maybe I’m just in the right space to see them.
Either way! Comparison is, in fact, a thief. He steals our time and confidence and makes us feel like we have nothing, unless we have everything. He makes us think we need to be the best, or we can’t be anything at all. (“If you ain’t first, you’re last!” -Ricky Bobby, Big Hairy American Winning Machine.)
The light hits us differently. We grow in different seasons and under different conditions. So many things influence the growth of a clover. But the important thing? They grow. They don’t compare themselves to their neighbor. They don’t care that the 6 year old on the left has grown taller than their 25 year old self. They just live. Without regard for anything else. Just happy to be alive. Sometimes one just grows more when the sun comes out.