Needing to Belong

It’s absolutely incredible to me that at the age of 2.5, my son is already working hard to feel included. He must be a part of every thing and any thing occurring in the room. He must know what is happening, who it includes, why it’s being done, and what will happen next.

I see snippets of this every day, but found a conversation we shared recently to be exceptionally telling and relevant to what I’m describing here.

I was cleaning up a bit around the house and found LM1 beneath my legs, tugging away at my shirt to ask a question.

“Why I am not there, too?” he said.

“Where, Baby?” I said.

“In that picture. Where is everyone? Why my family is there and I am not there?” he said.

LM1 was clearly distraught and confused and generally agitated. I had to put down the things in my hands down and follow him through the house to figure out what he was describing.

“I’m confused,” I confessed. “Can you show me?”

Without hesitation, he pulled my wet and soapy hands for a quick trip to the table in our foyer. A few days earlier, I propped up a new canvas on the little wood table in our foyer, which shows about 30 smiling members of our family. The picture was a gift for the holidays, and it’s a good one, since so many of the people we love are featured in it. It was a great gift idea, until LM1 noticed his absence from the photo and began protesting this.

“Why I am not with my family?” he said.

I explained as best as I could that this was a photo from a party. It was a late night and he is a little man, so he needed to be home, doing little man things.

“We will go back there,” he said, “so I can be with my family, too.”

“No, Honey,” I said. “The party is over. We can take a picture with you at another party. Just wait and there will be another time for fun and photos.”

He looked like he might cry. LM1 was still confused. I tried to explain that even if we miss a family event or a photo, our family is always with us. We are all together, and we belong to each other no matter what. That’s what family means.

I finally coaxed him away from the photo with some trains and other toys.

But this desire, this burning need to belong and to be included stuck with me. As human beings, we’ve all got this in us at such a young age. I’ve read about it in the psychology books: we want to be a part of things. We want to join a community. We learn to take great pride and comfort in the fact that we belong. I guess this may not be the case for everyone, but I feel this way, and now I can see my son feeling this way, too.

Being a SAHM can be isolating sometimes. I’ve written about this before, and it’s no secret. We spend lots of time alone with our kids when we have to wait through the nap traps, long meals, endless diaper changes, and transportation between schools and doctors and playdates. The truth is that between all of those tiresome moments, I long to belong within a community, too. I want to be surrounded by people. I want to laugh and smile and pose for pics. I want to feel like I belong someplace outside of my house from time to time.

So, this burning desire of his to know “WHERE WAS I?” and “WHEN WILL I BE A PART OF THIS GROUP AGAIN” made me see how similar all human beings are. Age seems to separate us in many ways, but it doesn’t in so many others. LM1 and I love being part of something bigger than ourselves, and I can’t believe that became apparent on a lazy winter morning in our house.

So, we took up a game of memory with Thomas and Friends playing cards. We laughed and enjoyed some time before getting out of the house. And I called my sister for a quick “hey, how are ya” conversation, and laughed at my own advice: family is with us even when they’re not.

Here’s to #simpleblessings and how a babe shows me how to belong.


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