The Insecure, The Very Insecure, & The Tall Poppies

playmobil-picnicRecently, I attended a talk by Bob Campbell, one of two Masters of Wine in New Zealand, as part of an ongoing series of talks called “Business On Toast.” I want to get involved in my new local community, Devonport, and learning about the ins and outs of wine tasting at seven o’clock in the morning seemed a smart move toward that end. Plus, they served breakfast.

Now, if there’s one thing about Kiwis, they’re a modest lot. Worldwide, the phrase “Tall Poppy Syndrome” typically refers to cases where “people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.” But I think it’s a bit different in New Zealand. (I could be completely wrong, but it’s worth taking a whack at describing the local variation.) Kiwis revere genuine talent, such as Bob Campbell’s tasting and writing skills, but reject self-congratulation. We don’t simply cut down the tall poppies; we cut down the ones who disrupt the camaraderie that makes us us. If Bob showed up and told us that he is a Master of Wine, so his word on the topic is law, our tastes be damned, the crowd would have chopped him straight down. Instead, he told us this:

When it comes to wine drinkers, there are “the insecure, and the very insecure.” Presumably a Master of Wine is only “insecure,” but regardless, his point was that we’re all in this together. There’s no talking down to anyone handling a glass and a bottle, and only those making a fuss about how much they know would be foolish enough to try. In describing how he found success in the world of wine tasting, for example, he attributed much of it to bluffing. Classic Kiwi right there; Bob’s just one of the poppies.

If the tall poppies are right — “people of genuine merit” — then what would motivate us to mow them down? I think it’s this: inflexibility. I think that we look at those who toot their own horns as unwilling, or worse yet unable, to enjoy community with those who are not as skilled as they are, or who simply don’t sing their own praises. (If it weren’t for all the other poppies, there would be no poppy field, and so no tall poppies at all. Take that tall poppies!) Most of us, I imagine, enjoy the company of others who listen, respond, adapt, and learn from us; everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach.

And with that we have arrived at a recent common theme of this blog: I’ve got a lot to learn, and Noodle keeps teaching me.

Of course, I’m no parenting expert. I have one child who is, by all accounts, pretty easy to take care of. I’d like to think that he’s easy-going because of my great influence, but more than likely, it’s despite my questionable choices. Laid Back Dad makes plenty of mistakes; he just doesn’t let those mistakes spoil his day. Noodle doesn’t dwell on the less-than-perfect moments of his day either, so we get along cheerfully.

It seems to me that Dadding Full Time is not exactly a conventional parenting blog. I’m not here to tell you how to do things; I’m here to share stories — ordinary stories about ordinary things that could happen to any of us — and pass along a few thoughts about what makes the stories noteworthy to begin with. In the end, the lesson is always “it’ll be alright,” and that’s as much a lesson to me as it might be to the reader. I’m as insecure as the next parent; I just enjoy talking about my insecurities, learning from them, and moving on.

Anyway, here’s the point, and it’s connected to the “Unsolicited Parenting Tips” on this blog: if another parent suggests that you’ve got something to learn, have a quick look at your kid. Is he happy? Does he laugh, play, run, jump, eat, sleep, and babble constantly about his dreams? Is he polite, considerate, does he listen well, and does he play well with others? If so, then you’re as much of a parenting expert as the next poppy. Don’t sweat the tall ones; they’re missing out.

Kids These Days
Parenting Is Not a Desk Job