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Date Posted: September 17th, 2010 (5:33pm)

In a recent conversation with a fellow poker player, the topic of whether "a tiger can change its stripes" occurred. My contention was that if you are young, you have the opportunity to change who you are, but once you are an adult, unless you have some catastrophic event, you are pretty set about who you are. As a poker player in your teens or early 20's, you can be molded into a variety of styles, but if you are a seasoned player and person, you are likely stuck with your natural tendencies. I wanted to share a personal example from my family to further illustrate this point.

Whenever I used to be asked to describe the difference between my two children, I used to always illustrate with this one story from a trip to Disney World years ago. It seemed to capture their different essences well. We were going to the special Cirque Du Soleil show at Disney World. We were running late and cutting it close. We hustled along the long walkway up to the special auditorium. As we entered the main seating area, a clown took our tickets. Never having ever been to a Cirque show before, I figured maybe this was how it was done. We were led down some steps, then down some more steps approaching the main stage. Then we noticed a spotlight on us as we approached the stage, obviously too close to be our actual seats. By being late, we had become part of the show. The clown started to mock us a bit, using mime. He took our six tickets and walked onto the empty stage. He lay them side by side and motioned to my son to retrieve them. The audience was laughing, thousands of people focused solely on us. He froze and cowered by my side. When it was obvious that he wouldn't budge, my daughter boldly walked on the stage, confidently picked up the tickets, and walked back to us. The clown continued to mock us, but the audience was now applauding. We were then led back to our seats to watch the main show in peace.

The story illustrated my daughter's comfort with crowds, attention, uncomfortable situations and the unknown while my son preferred to avoid any such situation. It is now years later and we have accepted the differences in our children. Except that my son is now 11 and my daughter 13. They are now in different stages. They are developing as people and that involves change.

An incident from last night shows that respective change. We headed out to our annual sojourn to Oktoberfest. It is held in an old German influenced farming community 45 minutes to the south of us. We walked around checking out the craft booths, food stalls, displays and men and women in their traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl outfits. They have numerous beer halls and Weingarten and we have our personal favorite that we always visit. It's the medium sized big hall that always has the same bands from Germany and Canada performing for the over 15 years we've visited. We sat at one of the crowded benches in the middle.

One of the traditions at Oktoberfest is to dance the "Chicken Dance." It's a silly little dance, but an easy one for everyone to do. The first band announced that they would pick a best dance winner or two from the thousand or so people in the audience. When it was time, my son and I got up to dance. We enthusiastically danced the silly dance while my daughter refused, embarrassed that we were showing so much exuberance. When is was over, the woman on the stage selected my son as her winner. Without a second's pause, he confidently strode up to the stage to accept his free T-shirt prize and to the warm applause of the crowd walked back to our table and quickly put on his new shirt. I have to admit it as a proud moment for me. As a father, it is small things like that which are symbolic and important. He could never have done that a few years ago. Whereas my daughter is in a new stage where she doesn't want to seem silly and cares what people think. They both have changed and may change again, but as a parent I was happy to see that he could overcome his previous fears of the unknown and being in the limelight.

As a poker player at my age, I may be stuck with a certain playing style, but I'm glad my children still have the opportunity and flexibility to re-define who they are.

RossG Added 9/24/10 5:00pm
Really enjoyed this blog and the chicken dance story and the father / son bonding. Very nice.
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