Different or Fancy?

It was a relatively easy, but somewhat mind-numbing task to accommodate the child’s fixed preferences at her place setting. We don’t have quite enough “matching” flatware pieces to make it to the next dishwasher run. We tend to run out of teaspoons and case knives before plates and bowls. Over the years of combining two single professionals’ kitchens, potlucks, etc. we’ve acquired some non-matching pieces that fill in from time to time, which is fine by me since I’m the manual dishwasher in these parts. I’d rather use a mis-matched spoon that wash some by hand at the last minute any day. The problem was the fit the child was liable to throw if her place setting contained any of the mismatched pieces. Really? Really! I am all for helping her overcome such fixations in more important scenarios (like playing with peers or siblings, or an unforeseen change in plans) but when it came to setting the table I decided to just make sure I always gave her the standard pieces. There are some battles that just aren’t worth the effort. With very few exceptions it took relatively little effort on my part to make sure she always had the matched set. To be fair I usually gave matched sets to the twins, too. If push came to shove I would give the mis-matched spoon to whichever twin seemed most easy-going at the time…or least likely to even notice.


As is increasingly the way of things around her, the neuro-typical, though younger, siblings have shown the child the way to be flexible in this situation. I think it was the little boy who received the mis-matched spoon at dinner one night. “Hey, look, Sissy! I got a fancy spoon!” he said with obvious delight. There is no way I could have faked such enthusiasm over a spoon – matching or not. Suddenly everyone wants the “fancy” utensils, and I no longer have to think quite so hard about how I’m setting the table…except to make sure that everyone gets a turn being fancy once in a while, but that’s easy.

As I was setting the table last night I realized it’s not only a lesson in flexible thinking, it’s also a beautiful parable for the way we look at each other. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking around here about how people are the same, and how they are different. It seems like sometimes we expect everyone to fall into line and match everyone else. Different way of thinking? Different way of moving around? Different way of learning? Different way of talking? So many places the answer seems to be, “None of that here, please…We must be a matched set.” Perhaps we can take a turn rejoicing in how fancy we all are. How much more fun would that be?

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