I hear this expression from time to time. I hear it used in the sentence “well he always was the black sheep of the family” and I hear it used in the first person such as “well I am the black sheep of my family.” In this post I have been thinking about HOW a child becomes “the black sheep of the family” in the first place.
The black sheep may be the one that rebels against the family system or the black sheep is also used to describe the one who “doesn’t fit in” with the family. Not “fitting in” with the family usually means not being accepted by the family for going against the family rules, questioning certain practices or simply for being an individual. (note: sometimes “not fitting in” is simply the feeling of not being as “good” or as valuable as other siblings or other family members.)
The good, bad and (sometimes) ugly
In my own life and at times I have felt like ‘the good, the bad and (sometimes) the ugly, put simply, because as it seems in my family I have been cast as the black sheep. I have never really given this any real thought or attention over the years, which some may find a trifle strange I know, but my own love and the protection for others mainly for my mother has prevented me from doing anything, and I never did mind putting up with the torrent (sometimes raging) of what I now consider to be abuse from my stepfather, a man who for all his years should have really known better in my humble opinion. But you know I have discovered over the years that some adults that are parents, are themselves damaged goods. My stepfather came from a Scottish working class family of 11 siblings, there was 12 but one died at a very young age unfortunately, and I think that it must have been like every man, woman and child for themselves in them years before and after the war, the clothes were handed down the line and at the most they only had a three room tenement in Helensburgh which is outside but you could say near Glasgow, and as one uncle put it on Facebook “mum took in washing from the toffs on the hill as well as tattie picking, dad drove the laundry van in daytime and was projectionist at the LaScala at night”. So I hope that you are able to get a taste of what life was like and in no way was it at all easy for my stepfather who was the eldest son.
My understanding, is that it was so bad for him my stepfather, that he ran away from home and at first ending up in a Barnardo home for homeless and destitute children then after being rejected for enrolment in the Royal Navy he managed to join the RAF and spent 16 years in that outfit, during which time he was stationed in Germany met my mother a single parent with child (me) in the 1950s and the rest is history. Obviously, for the sake of privacy there is much more which I’m going to leave out and only stay to the relevant and pertinent points of my arguments.
He became my adopted stepfather two years after I was born and I was joined by two sisters and one brother in the years that then followed.
Despite my growing awareness from an early age that this man really regretted me being a part of the family I did have a wonderful childhood, and it must have been his indifference, the general lack of interest and support that I started to drift off and question what was going on around me, at school at home and almost everywhere; little did I know at that time, and I must have been all of 7 years old that I was on the road to becoming a socialist, those first tentative steps where down to a man who became my bully, and he was a real bully not just to me but to the whole family at times, sometimes it came down to real violence and especially against my mum who put up with it for years, why I don’t really know and can’t even work it out, maybe like the rest of the family it was at such times that she was really scared stiff, fearful and frightened of this man who had been drinking with his mates, after spending all the money on some car that was just an old banger which he did often.
As the years rolled on I got older and he got worse towards me, on one occasion he was dragging my mum down the stairs by her hair I intervened so as to prevent and alter a result namely trying to protect my mum and was hit in the face by this fully grown man, this was not the only time that I was violently assaulted by this man, if you can call him a man by hitting young boys and women; once sitting in one of his friend's flat in the 70s he tried to show me up and suggested that before I joined the Labour Party I should get a book about all the parties read about them then decide which one to join, it’s so long ago now that I don’t remember the exact reply that I gave him but do remember that I told him in no uncertain terms that I was a Socialist which cost me another smack in the face.
There are many more confrontations that I had with this man, and no one came to my defence not even my own mother, who continued to take this man's side when she told me in a roundabout way that I could not attend his funeral 4 years ago, even though I had done the right thing some years beforehand and went out of my way to make a reconciliation and the restoration of friendly relations with the man - but it seems he had me and was two faced, well it’s not for me to be his judge only God can do that - but I am grateful had I not had this experience in life I would be that much poorer and that’s all that matters