I have four cats. I know. I’m like a crazy cat lady. It makes sense, though, if you understand how they came to be with us. We promised our youngest kids kittens when we moved to Florida. And then another daughter said she kind of wanted one too. . .so we found a family a three kittens, a complete litter of three. They came to live with us, and they are the most well-adjusted, calm and sweet cats I’ve ever known.
And then last summer, a friend rescued a stray who (surprise!) turned out to be an expectant mommy. Fast forward through six weeks of subtle suggestions, not-so-subtle begging, emails and even video pleas, and youngest daughter convinced her daddy to bring Chessie into our little tribe.
Our first three cats are two sisters and a brother, all beautiful black cats. Chessie is a sweet striped cat with a pristine white belly. She is three years younger than the other cats. She is, in short, different.
Chessie belongs to us. She is part of the family. And yet, a year after her adoption, she isn’t quite accepted by the other cats. They tolerate her; they don’t harass her, everyone eats together, and they even seem to hang out sometimes. Chessie is adored and loved by all the humans around her and by our dog. But the other cats seem a little put off by her differences.
Sadly this isn’t a situation confined to the animal world. You might feel that you belong in our family, that you share blood or history, and yet still not feel that you are accepted for who you are.
Feeling accepted is another essential element of a happy family. Each member should be treasured not only for her place in the family, but also for those unique traits that make her who she is. People wanted to be loved not in spite of their quirks but because of them.
When I was growing up, I was a picky eater. Peanut butter was my staple. And I loved to read. I would rather spend hours with a book than with other people. Like everyone else in the world, I had quirks. But my family accepted me as I was. I never felt that I had to pretend to be anything that I was not.
Whenever a new member comes into a family, the existing members have expectations. Parents-to-be dream that their new baby will be the perfect mix of mom and dad’s best traits. When that child instead turns out to be someone completely new and different, it can be difficult to adjust expectations to reality. Kids might feel that they belong and yet still not feel accepted. They may try to become more like their siblings or other family members, or they might just rebel against all expectations, real or perceived.
So how do we make sure everyone not only is accepted but also belongs? The first step is to celebrate the differences. If you’re a straight-laced type A personality, always arriving ten minutes early for every appointment, and your daughter is a free spirit who finds schedules too confining, it might be tough to reconcile those two life-styles, let alone find a reason for praise. But it’s possible. Tell your daughter how much you admire her easy-going ways. Learn to embrace some of those differences.
Kids are smart. They can sense when their parents are trying to understand them, and that little bit of understanding can go a long way. It never fails to amaze me how forgiving and understanding my own are. If you accept your children, with all their quirks and foibles, they just may turn around and accept you right back.
And that’s important, because ALL family members need that acceptance. . even parents.
Tawdra Kandle has completed 3 young adult novels and is currently working on her forth. She is a contributor for Taking Time for Mommy – Online Magazine for Moms sharing her homeschooling adventures and couponing tips. She is also an administrator of the Time 4 Mommy Community and heads up our .
You can find Tawdra on Twitter and follow her blog Publishing Quest.