I was waiting in the car for the last of the three high schoolers to exit the house. The engine was running. The two who were already in the car were moaning over how the third was going to make them all late for first period. I was ready to honk when the tardy kid burst out, ran our way without looking back, and failed to close the front door.
The straggler opened the back passenger door and climbed in, breathless.
“You forgot something!” I sighed.
“No, I have everything.”
“It’s customary to close the front door when you’re the last person out.”
The kid’s eyes narrowed. “Since when has our family been customary?” Hiss. Growl. Indicted.
I was a bit shocked as I watched my livid teen stomp out of the car and back to the house, slamming the door shut. As we drove, we discussed junior baby elementary door etiquette basics, like shut the door if you’re the last one out and don’t slam the door and is it locked? Poor attitudes were also noted as unacceptable, especially in those who make basic errors and aren’t contrite.
As I drove home from the school, I started thinking less about the door issue and more about how our family isn’t customary. No, it isn’t. In fact, we’ve taken custom, flipped it upside down and added polka dots. I wondered why the kid chose to invoke our family when called out on a mistake. Our family didn’t forget to close the door. Our family wasn’t the last one out for a short but humdrum ride to school. Yet, our family—in all it’s weirdness and unwieldiness—was on the brain. The beginning of the school year is always ripe for the “Why is our Family so Big?” discussion. They meet new kids and new teachers. They are often asked to introduce themselves and inevitably someone asks about brothers and sisters. I can see them now, taking their deep breaths, bracing. Younger kids usually have to draw pictures of their families.
“We don’t all fit in this little box!” they’ve groaned as they struggled to include us on worksheets sent home from school.
“Draw outside the line?”
Some of our kids do. Some don’t.
Not everyone is thrilled with the bulk of our brood. Sometimes, assaults come from inside like friendly fire but I’m okay with that. They didn’t get to choose. But it’s interesting to see who can go beyond the lines and who wishes to stay within defined borders.