Parenting

Featured Article on Parenting: The Power of Belonging


Search for Assurance: The Power of Belonging

The job hunt is on, as is the quest to find another great preschool and neighborhood to be part of. After feeling out of place, hearing over and over that an item I'm searching for is not available, or a pretty basic procedure I thought I had a grasp of is "done differently here. You must be from overseas," I'm really glad to be back.

It's as I suspected-we each have a checklist of things we rely on to assure us that all is okay. For my elderly aunt, reciting the family tree mentally anchors her in the family, and strengthens her sense of belonging to it. I never understood before, but she has actually memorized the biographical details of most of the family members. She orients herself by acknowledging aloud who's married to whom, who's building, and how many children they have, where they graduated from, and the names of all of the grandchildren. I used to search for mention of myself in this Roll Call of Impressive Achievers. This year, I decided that establishing my own checklist of anchoring events was more important to me than being named on someone else's. I started by writing and compiling a book with my daughter.

Another important step in my ongoing orientation was hearing the words "Welcome Home" when we cleared customs on our way back to Massachusetts. It was hearing the airline pilot comment on seeing my Red Sox cap the night we flew in: "They won the World Series, you know." I don't follow baseball, football or any team sport for that matter, but at the moment I cherished the sense of belonging conferred by my symbolically significant headgear.

That sense of belonging is especially important during childhood. It meant the world when my friends and I were choosing teams. I always dreaded being the last one picked, because it made me feel like I had no enviable skill in throwing, catching or running, and therefore nothing that either team really coveted to ensure its victory. Truth is, I didn't have any such skill, but that didn't curb my wanting to be a part of things. Everyone likes to belong, whether it be as part of a family, part of a culture, or as everyone in Boston can tell you, part of a winning team.

But back to the search, the beauty of it is simply having something to choose from. Not lots of products and services, but endless variations on each, and always an emphasis on the consumer's convenience. I've been to the mall three times, and always leave in a state of amazement. Part of that is mall-induced exhaustion, but it also comes from feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the structure.

For the first time in months, I am not apologetic about being a foreigner, nor am I fearful of ridicule for being an American. It's good to be home, and back to a search mode I can look forward to.

Tricia Wellington is the mother of one toddler.

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Tricia Wellington is the mother of one toddler.


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