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?
I’ve been an odd duck EVERYWHERE in my life; I guess I’ll work on Friday’s post while I am thinking about it.
As for mothers who have specific ways, boy was that My mother, and my aunts! It took me forever to realize that it was actually possible to fold laundry a different way and not drop dead on the spot, or sink into a downward spiral to becoming a real low-life.
One of my cousins actually went into therapy because she felt like there were so many rules in life and she did not automatically know them, so she figured there was something wrong with her.
How awful for your cousin! I think going away to college (a seven-hour drive each way) saved me. After four years away I was able to return with enough self confidence to do MOST things my way. Until I got married, and my hubby couldn’t find his socks unless I folded them like his mother did!
that sounds like a cool book — both for kids to read and for a small class to discuss.
So much (in the lives of children, especially) revolves about whether one is included or excluded.
As for the family part, I guess I’ll have to mull that over between now and Thursday.
It’s a great book, Jeff, and I’m sure at least some of your grandkids have come across it. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say.
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Funny to think about how many writers were considered the “odd duck” of the family. I’m a member of that group too. My sister, a nurse, still gets annoyed that I don’t see things exactly like she does. BTW, I had that book as a child and it was one of my favorites.
I guess that confirms the fact that we are unique! I’m sure your sister’s line of reasoning bugs you sometimes, too. Thanks so much for stopping in!
My kids love this book. In fact, I just read it to Wyatt last week.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little different than the rest of your family. It would be rather boring if everyone was the same.
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My students loved this book, too. I still have my copy! So true that life would be boring if we were all the same. I’m sure that not feeling like you belong is sort of a rite of passage for adolescents.
Being unique is never a bad thing. There’s plenty of room for the unique in families.