Introducing the second in the Unwanted Life story series, this time Lindsay, who blogs over at – Live, Parent, Teach, Repeat – shares her story with us of feeling like the unwanted runt of the litter.
But that’s enough from me, so without further ado, here’s Lindsay’s story in her own words.
I have few memories of my schooldays but one stands out. It was parents’ evening at secondary school (Year 5 in old money) and my GCSE English coursework was available for my dad to read. At the time I was excited for him to read my literary endeavours; I considered this to be my most productive period! I just loved to write. However, I’d forgotten about one particular piece. To this day, I can still remember how it ended.
And I can still remember my dad’s reaction. I was detailing a family situation and how I felt to be a member of this clan. I’d never talked about it before. That was something I didn’t do. But I could write about it easily and clearly. And after reading it, my dad walked up to me and said, “You are not the runt of the litter.” This is the story.
The Runt Of The Litter?
My father’s side of the family is Catholic. My grandma was an Irish Catholic. My abiding memory of her is struggling to understand a word she said because decades in West Cumbria had done nothing to dilute her County Tipperary accent. My grandfather was Whitehaven born, originally Church of England but he changed his allegiance to Catholicism on marrying his Gaelic bride. They say the converts are the worst.
So I was born into a half Catholic, half ‘couldn’t give a monkeys’ family. My dad was severely lapsed by this point; I have memories of nuns knocking at the door to try and persuade him to return to the church. They gave up after a while. I’m not quite sure if it was the stench of cigarette smoke or his unwavering stubbornness which eventually drove them away.
My mother’s side of the family saw the church as the place down the road where you went for christenings, weddings and funerals. And possibly where there was a free babysitting service on Sunday mornings so parents got some peace. For years, this information was lost to me. I had no real awareness that there was a difference between myself and my dad’s nieces and nephews. But it soon became clear.
Around the age of 10, I started to question things. Why did all my paternal cousins go to a different primary school? Initially, I thought it was a question of distance. But then why did they all go to a different secondary school when mine was just over the road from theirs? Pennies started to drop. Stories started to be told. And I felt different, unwelcome and rejected.
For I had been baptised Church of England and in 1974, as far as my zealot of a grandfather was concerned, this seemed to be on a par with murder. There were arguments. Half of the family refused to come to the church. Hang on, wasn’t it the same god? And when it was pointed out to my grandparents that they would miss out on seeing their new granddaughter grow up if their attitude persisted, the reply was that they wouldn’t miss what they’d never had. All in the name of religion.
It was only years later that I learned this. In the intervening period, I yearned to be Catholic. I wanted to be able to talk to my cousins about mass, confession and the ritual of confirmation. I remember my fascination with the white dresses and adopting a saint’s name for the occasion. Maybe if I was Catholic my grandparents would love me. I sometimes felt angry with my parents that they hadn’t made me the same as everyone else. I continued to feel this constant divide; most of the Kelly side of the family was lost to me because of a religious chasm.
As you age, you see things differently. And I gradually came to see that I was worthy. I was polite, I behaved, I tried hard at school; I was a granddaughter of which they should be proud. And as I compared myself to my cousins and saw no real inferiority on my part, sadness for what could have been was replaced by the anger of the stupidity of what hadn’t been.
I escaped to university. To the city where my grandparents had lived and had their first two children. Did my subconscious think this might make them love me a bit more by choosing Edinburgh? If so, my conscious decision that they weren’t deserving of me and I ceased what little contact we had.
I didn’t go to my grandfather’s funeral. I felt no guilt. He had been baptised the same as me so who was he to judge, belittle, reject? Six weeks after his passing, I went to my grandmother’s funeral and I can’t explain why. Why go to one and not the other? Maybe because it wasn’t her who argued frequently with my dad over religion in front of me, causing my dad to storm out, with me in tow, before he said something he regretted? Maybe because I have one memory of her walking up our hill from her house in the valley to deliver my birthday present on time? But then it was her who had said she wouldn’t miss having me in her life.
Deep down, on that dismal day in March, I still think I was maybe looking for some form of acceptance. Look at me, Grandma. I’m in a Catholic Church. Am I doing everything right?
So they never had me and I doubt they did miss me. They had plenty of other grandchildren of the correct denomination to be proud of. Having had no grandparents on my maternal side for completely different reasons, I am sad when I hear my husband talk fondly of his childhood memories of Nan, Frank, Dolly and Stan.
But, in an ironic twist of fate, I find myself working in a Catholic school. And again, I find myself asking, can you see me? Look where I’m working! Am I good enough for you now? But when in Mass with my students, I do find myself feeling inferior again, watching in awe the 11-year-olds taking Holy Communion, whilst I root myself to the seat, scared to even take the blessing because I’m not good enough and I might do something wrong.
I don’t think that feeling of rejection will ever completely go away, but I can live my best life without knowing how to perform the sign of the cross or how to count prayers using beads on a necklace. Instead, I know that I will never reject any of my grandchildren based on religion, race or sexuality. And in that case, I have won. I am not the runt of the litter.
I’d like to thank Lindsay from Live, Parent, Teach, Repeat for sharing her story with my followers and me: it takes a lot of courage to open up about such experiences. But at the same time, sharing such personal stories can make people aware that they too might not be in a situation that’s good for their mental wellbeing, and show them they’re also not alone in this. I know for me, I had a somewhat similar experience being the only black person in my family and school (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek). I guess for me it was less the runt of the litter and more the literal black sheep.
So if you’d like to show your appreciation to Lindsay for sharing her story, and to show her that she is wanted, then why not visit her blog (Live, Parent, Teach, Repeat) or one of her social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) to let her know.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of feeling unwanted or share how Lindsay’s story of feeling like the unwanted runt of the litter made you feel in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new posts by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom left corner.
Also, if you’d like to submit your own stories of feeling unwanted, then let me know by contacting me through my social media accounts or by going to the contact page.
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Unwanted Life readers.
31 thoughts on “The Runt Of The Litter: An Unwanted Life Story”
Thank you ?
such a dichotomy that you lived in – that can be very challenging as you feel you are stuck in the middle!
Thanks. It certainly was challenging and confusing at times!
It is hard to be split inside, especially between families when you are young and no one has any understandable answers for you.
That said, I love the more postitive resolution you took away from your experiences, in that you will not turn away any of your grandchildren based off religion, race or sexuality.
I know the feeling of being spilt and not knowing where you should belong, far too well myself
Thank you ?
Thank you for being so open about your situation – I think it’s a situation that, unfortunately, I think many children have had to face. There is something about religion that seems to bring out the judgment in people, which is kinda the opposite of the love that it’s supposed to focus on, isn’t it?
I love how your story ended though – you’re right, we can’t change our circumstances but we can change how we respond to them.
The weird thing about religious people is how blind they can be to the harm they cause others, especially the ones that preach unconditional love
I’d doesn’t surprise me that religion is a factor in this, religions have a lot to answer for, which was a factor in me starting my blog
Don’t get me started. Thanks for reading
I was raised Catholic and it has definitely caused issues in my family – there’s a lot of…disagreement over beliefs, and worth, and I spent a lot of my life trying to reconcile everything. It’s hard, but the fact that you know you will never be so judgemental – that’s important. You are the one coming out ahead at the end of the day.
Thank you ?
I have never understood why people allow religion to dictate their opinions/feelings towards others. But I’m glad you’re able to look at things in a more positive light now
I’ve never understood that either
Thank you ?
If only families could accept each member exactly as he or she is and allow people to grow up and make their own choices. I tell my children all the time that I will accept the lives they chose to lead when they grow up. I gave them a life to lead as they see fit, not to do whatever I want for them. I wish all the best for you Lindsay no matter what your religion, life choices, etc.
Indeed. My grandad cut ties with his family when they gave him an ultimatum when my mum fell pregnant with me, a black child. Life’s hard enough as it is, why make it harder over such insignificant differences
Thank you ?
Thank for sharing this very personal story. It moved me. Although mine wasn’t similar, I was adopted and had some similar feelings.
Thanks for reading
Religion can be so important for some families that they put that above anything. Sometimes it breaks a family. Which is the worst. Your story made me think about this deeper. You must have lots of questions in your mind. But don’t let your thoughts ruin you.
Thank you for sharing this! 🙂 Stay strong!
My mum’s religious views have pushed everyone away, completely isolating herself. The irony is, she only turned to religion to fill the void of loneliness of being a single mother
This makes you think. The hypocrisy that comes along with all of this, it’s the worst. Thanks for sharing!
Hypocrisy is the worst
Such an interesting story, for me, family is most important, no matter religion, race, sexuality or whatever, but I guess that’s just how I am. Thanks for sharing.
Unfortunately, not all family are like that. My mum said she wouldn’t attend a gay wedding of a family member due to her religious beliefs
This is a beautiful story and one that I can relate to very well. Thank you for sharing.
Ahhh! Thank you for sharing this story, heartbreaking as it may be. I am always discouraged reading tales of church trauma, because when the Church is working as it SHOULD be…. it’s beautiful. “Hang on, wasn’t it the same God?” YES!
The issues been Protestant and Catholic faith you would think would be trivial but for some it’s more than enough reason to discriminate against someone