If you watched us walk down the street together, without referencing doorway heights and other pedestrians, we would appear to be four regular women laughing, chatting, and meandering down a charming downtown alleyway.
That was how I felt for the better part of four days we were together—normal. Like I was among my people.
There are thousands of women out there who would laugh (and justifiably so) at my touted “tall” claim. Still, at six feet tall, I’m well above average. Enough so to live my days dealing with endless questions & comments…
“Wow! How’s the weather up there?”
“Just how tall are you?”
“Is your mom a giant?”
“Your kids are going to be enormous! But that’s okay ’cause they’ll surely score athletic scholarships.”
Honestly, it’s easy to laugh about. I mean…I identify with my height. I named my blog The Tall Mom for crying out loud. Which is exactly how I am described most often at my kids’ school.
–“Do you know her? You know, the tall mom at pick up, drives the suburban?”
–“Oh yeah! The tall mom! I met her at back to school night.”
Don’t even get me started on the issues I have with clothing, airplane seats, headroom in vehicles, and what I like to think of as the grand conspiracy of shower head heights.
Spending a weekend with my college teammates, all of whom are six feet or taller, all of whom spent ample time with a strength coach in a weight room, and all of whom have now lived the body altering natural disaster…er…I mean…miracle…that is pregnancy and child birth, makes me feel like I am with my people.
On the drive home, as I reflected on the comfort and glorious normalcy I’d felt (among other happy thoughts), it occurred to me that the experience wasn’t something unique to me. Everyone wants to feel that way. Everyone wants to belong. It’s why we gravitate to people who think, act, do, and look like we do. It’s why life is better when we can sympathize, empathize, and relate to one another. It’s why when that feeling is missing…life seems so much harder.
Then I thought of my kids.
Maybe I’m hyper sensitive to the idea of providing, or at least introducing to my children, opportunities to see families that look like ours? The fact remains, we don’t look like most. Even my three year old can easily point out, “One of these is not like the other.” (Sing it. I know you remember the melody.) I’m fortunate beyond measure to have families in our community and among our friends who do look like us. I actively seek out roll models for my children—all my children—to identify with. We learn about these fantastic people. When possible, we spend time with them.
There is value and validation to be found in relating with others whose experience of the world is similar to your own. It’s important. But it’s only half the lesson.
I believe the similarities that make us feel comfortable are really just the gateways for the real gifts found beneath that appealing surface. The real prize is in recognizing, appreciating, and acknowledging the value of our differences.
My people look a lot like me. We even have some of the same shared experiences. But we are all different.
R lives on the coast. Her day-to-day life happens in a suburb that includes more people than my entire state. She and her husband are raising two kids while balancing two full-time demanding careers. The political climate, cost of living, etc. are nearly the polar opposite to my experience in Wyoming. We are the same…but we are also different.
B has two children—one with special needs. Her family navigates an entire world of therapies, appointments, social interactions, and more that I can only attempt to understand. My trials and tribulations with parenting, she can relate to (with a better perspective, I might add), but hers…I can only try to place myself in those shoes. We are the same…but we are also different.
M has experienced multiple events where her child nearly died from anaphylaxis. Both of her children have allergies—some life threatening. The daily chore of feeding her family is infinitely more complicated than what the average parent faces. We are the same…but we are also different.
I am the only one in our group with three children. The only one who has adopted a child, and I am the only one still living in Wyoming.
I’ve pointed out only a tiny sampling of ways in which we experience parenthood, and thus life, in different ways. It’s cliché perhaps, but we each bring something unique to our friendships…and to this world. Our perspectives, our experiences, our influence, and our legacies are all special because each of us is the only one who can provide that exact semi-secret formulation.
Most importantly, and amazingly…we love each other because of and in spite of our similarities and our differences.
If I’m feeling like I don’t belong…maybe, I’m not trying hard enough. Not trying hard enough to find a similarity—some form of common experience. Either that, or I’m not recognizing, appreciating, or acknowledging some gift—disguised as a unique difference—just waiting for me to see it, so I might receive it.
I’m not suggesting we will be able to find commonality with everyone we meet. Nor is it possible to always discover an authentic appreciation for someones’ differences. Let’s be honest, some people are just assholes…or beyond functioning within society (serial killers come to mind). But…it’s a big world—7 billion people to be specific. Those of us who are willing to be a part of something, and I believe that to be the vast majority…we can all belong. In fact, as Glennon says, “We belong to each other.”
And when I think about the world and all its people like that—as both somehow like and also uniquely unlike me, well…that makes all the people…my people.