Thursday, March 7, 2013

Square Peg

I am getting used to not fitting in around here.

I really felt the "square-peg feeling," as a good friend calls it, when we announced that we were adopting our son, Nicholas.  We were young, we already had a biological child, so I guess we didn't fit into the stereotype of a typical adoptive family.  Many people did not know how to respond or what to say, and I found it very painful (hint: the proper response is a simple "congratulations!").  I was extremely sensitive to the fact that the ecstatic response that we received when we announced my pregnancy a few years before was not present when we announced our plan to adopt.  The subtle (or not-so-sublte) questions about my fertility led me to believe that many considered adoption to be a second-choice, a Plan B.  I felt really disappointed in people and I felt different from them: I was now someone who fully embraced adoption, and they were, well, not.  Even after we brought Nick home, I continued this separation and I distanced myself from certain friends and family members to shield myself from this new, uncomfortable feeling:  the feeling of not fitting in.

I felt the same feeling as we embarked on homeschooling.  A lot of folks around here think it is very weird.   There's often a brief yet unmistakable look of "what?!?!" when an acquaintance asks about our kids' school and I tell them we started homeschooling.  At first a few bold individuals tried to talk me out of it. And, I am sure that other, more polite or reserved friends, simply think to themselves that it is an inconvenient, stressful, way to turn out kids into misfits (or maybe I just think that because that it what I used to think - LOL!) But, whatever the response, I am back to feeling a bit different, a bit out-of-sync with the culture around me.

** I must add that many, many friends completely supported me in both our adoptions and homeschooling (and most of you are the ones who read my blog - hi!).  I am so completely grateful for them.

However, I realize now that adoption blazed the trail for me on this marching-to-my-own-drummer thing.  Now, 6 years after our first adoption, I am so different from who I once was.  I still notice that people don't respond in the way I wish they would, but I don't let it get to me.  There are still strange comments about the kids who are "my own" versus those who are not, or comments concerning " never knowing what you're going to get," but they roll off my back a little more easily.  The double-takes when I say I homeschool, or the ever-present questions about socializing my kids, are kind of funny after a while.

Now that we are adding a fifth child to our family, and are being more open about it, I am getting the same-old square-peg feeling about being a larger-than-average family.  Many people I've encountered think its an odd choice, and have no problem questioning my reasoning.  I'm finding it a little unsettling, but I am sure I'll get used to it just like I did the adoption and homeschooling questions.

What has been surprising me lately is the subtle feeling I get that I am somehow annoying others by my decisions.  I'm not quite sure how to put this into words, because the feeling is kind of just coagulating in my brain right now, but I sense an almost-eye-rolling, "what are you trying to prove"-type of thing.  Like I am showing off, perhaps, or vying for the Mom-of-the-year award. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has felt this, too, when you announced your 4th or 5th (etc, etc) child.

Maybe it's not just the large family that bugs people, but the adoption aspect.  I have had a few comments, something like "you can't save them all" or "are you trying to save the world?" More annoying than these questions, to me, is my own response.  I have noticed myself trying to downplay our adoptions because I don't want to seem like I think I am this big hero.  Or I don't tell people.  Sometimes it is just easier to "play small," as Marianne Williamson calls it, to fit in.

I know that in comparison to so many people, I have had it easy in terms of fitting in.  By in large, I am a round peg:  I am white, middle-class, straight, English-speaking.  I don't have a major disability, nor am I a teen mom, or elderly, nor do I adhere to a minority religious belief system.  Perhaps if I had been more of a square-peg in other aspects of my life, all of this would seem small potatoes.

And, really, I am not complaining.  My husband would love to tell you that I have a rebellious streak, and that I sometimes delight in making others squirm a little (not me!)  I am truly grateful for the perspectives that adoption and homeschooling and, now, my large-family- status has given me.  And, before all of this,  I never knew how narrow the confines of our cultural norms are.  So eye-opening!

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