Parenting When You Feel Like an Outsider

first day of schoolIt all started when I accompanied my sister and her husband to their son's first day of school. I was there as the family photographer to snap pictures of my nephew while my own little one was in day care.

All the parents gathered, excitedly chatting away about this momentous occasion they were all sharing. They smiled, at each other and at me, and all the while I diverted my attention lest I be drawn into conversation. That’s when the harsh reality of my social situation occurred to me: I am a total outsider.


It’s no wonder that I, as a bespectacled and mopey teenager, spent hours emoting over those blighted words from the song "Creep" by Radiohead.

My present social issue is strictly language-related since I'm an American living in Spain. I’m remarkably adjusted now, but I’ve spent my life feeling like an outsider in some major way or another. I suppose it’s no coincidence that my husband and I made what seemed like a “whimsical” decision to move to a foreign country where we barely speak the language so we can live even more outside the norm. That I keep putting myself in situations that evoke “outsider” sentiments could (and probably should) come under the purview of a licensed specialist, but the fact that I’m dragging my son into it makes me feel like a really bad parent.

No one wants to be a bad parent, not even a social pariah like me. 

My husband says I do an amazing job of “faking it” when it comes to our language deficits, but ever since we returned to Spain after two months in the U.S., I have absolutely no idea what is going on. Last week, for example, the day care called me because my son was upset. I rushed over, they couldn’t understand me nor could I completely understand them. Meanwhile, I feared, my son was left to figure it out on his own in this no man’s land that I created. Evidently, my “faking it” days have become a thing of the past. I was truly despondent after that episode and have felt that way ever since.

Perhaps it’s true of all children, they emerge into this world we’ve created for them and it is up to them to make of it what they may. Yet I really don’t want to force this outsider worldview on my son. He fits in anywhere, it’s true, but there’s going to come a day when he’s going to need me to “fit in” with the other parents, as in talk to them, maybe even socialize with them (ugh, the dread). I’ll learn the language eventually, but more and more I wish we’d taken the road more traveled, like to Toledo or Denver. I’m sure I could find the “not in” crowd there, too, but leave him out of it. 

Hark, hark, wherever you are! Do you ever feel like one of the “outsider” moms?


Image via K. Emily Bond

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