Remember this song from Sesame Street?
I’ve never had any reason to doubt my family’s love for me, but I’ve always felt like a bit of an odd duck. I suppose that’s what prompted me to pose the Question of the Week: Growing up, was there something about you that made you feel as if you didn’t belong to your family?
It’s been several years since I retired from teaching elementary school, but I remember researching children’s books to enhance my lessons. One day I needed something to go along with a lesson on heredity and came across a book by P D Eastman called Are You My Mother? It’s a cute story about a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away, looking for food. He decides to go and look for her, but since he hasn’t yet seen her, he doesn’t know what she looks like. He meets a kitten, a hen, a dog, and several pieces of machinery. Each time he asks, “Are you my mother?”
Eventually, the bird returns to his nest, thanks to a very large machine that the bird calls a Snort (it’s a steam shovel, but since the only noise it makes is a snort, that’s what the bird calls it). Soon after that, the mother bird returns to the nest, and the story ends happily. The mother doesn’t tell him, but somehow he knows who she is. So my class and I would hold a discussion about how he knew. And from there, we’d talk about things we have in common with our parents and the rest of our family.
Our discussions got me thinking about my own family. In many ways, I’m like either my mom or dad, but in other ways, I don’t resemble either of them. My mom would often comment that she must have brought the wrong child home from the hospital. Here are some inconsistencies:
- I have a weight issue, when neither or my parents did. Dad was a tiny man (he stood about 5’ 6”) and never weighed more than 135 pounds. Mom, at 84, gets upset when the scale tips above 120. My brothers keep quite active, so they keep their weight in check. So I stick out – literally.
- I’m not very good at keeping things tidy. Dad liked to have things orderly. Mom had a specific way she wanted things done. I often got in trouble for not doing things the way they were supposed to be done. In my job and in my home, if there’s something I need to work on, I like to leave it out, because if it’s put away, I’ll probably forget to do it. So when I’m really busy, my family has learned to navigate around my piles of organized mess.
- My idea of logic often doesn’t match that of other family members. Musicians, artists, and writers (all things I do) are called right-brained thinkers. People who work with numbers, like my accountant father, my by-the-book mother, and my engineer brother are left-brained. Fortunately, my other brother is also a musician, so he and I often commiserate when we’re labeled “illogical.”
I’m sure that if I took more time to think about this I’d come up with more reasons I don’t fit the family mold, but I’m afraid this would have a depressing effect on me – and I prefer to avoid depressing thoughts. So we’ll just say I’m unique and leave it at that. But like the little bird in P D Eastman’s story, I know who my family is – not because we look alike or do things alike, but because we have a bond like no other group has.
How well do you blend in with your family?