A niece on my wife's side recently told me something I already knew.
"I used to think you were unique," she said, "and then I met your brother. You're not that unique. You guys are the same."
I agree. I'm tall, but I'm not unique. I recently went home to visit my family, and many times, I fell into the same role that I had growing up.
My parents had four girls and five boys. I was the fourth boy. Among the boys, I am not the first, nor the last. I am not the tallest, nor the shortest. I weigh the second most. I wear glasses like three of the five. I wear the same size shoes as two others. Depending who you ask, I either have the second or third ugliest feet. We are all tall with brown hair. I am the second baldest.
My mother calls me by the wrong name sometimes. So do my siblings, and I sometimes call them the wrong names. Cousins, aunts and uncles have a hard time distinguishing us from each other. To true outsiders, we are indistinguishable.
Our family friends don't bother to distinguish between us. We are all "Lawlor Boys," even though we are all now middle-aged men. Our names are barely unique. I'm Tom, and I have a brother Tim. Really, our parents only changed one letter.
We didn't have our own rooms. All five boys shared one bedroom room. I may not be unique, but that room was.
According to DNA scientists, I share about 99.95 percent of my DNA with my siblings. So I can see why we are hard to tell apart. Except for the fact that I share 99.9 percent of my DNA with perfect strangers and 96 percent with chimpanzees. I learned today I share more than 50 percent of my DNA with bananas. Mushrooms, I am told, are somewhere around 33 percent.
Growing up, I'm sure my parents wanted me to feel unique, even though they would momentarily forget which one I was. To help me feel unique among the 7.25 billion people on the planet, they often told me how special and unique I was. I found out later that they said the same thing to the other eight kids. In fact, most of the 7.25 billion people's mothers probably say something similar.
When my wife was growing up, she would get upset when confronted by mean girls or boys who did not let her into their inner circle. My mother-in-law would say, "They are jealous of you. You are so much smarter and prettier than they are!" She was trying to make my wife fell better, to feel unique and important.
That said, my daughters definitely are unique. They are smarter, prettier and funnier than everybody else who has ever lived. They really are. It sometimes frustrates my wife and me when people fail to recognize our children as unique -- as simply the best.
It shocks us when teachers, coaches and their peers are not immediately awed by their superior DNA. Not knowing what they have in front of them, the coaches and the teachers just want my daughters to "try harder."
One year, the girls gave me a plastic trophy. It said "World's Best Dad." It was made in China, where nearly 1.4 billion people live. They must know something. I'm certain the factory that made the trophy produced only one of its kind. They knew enough to have it shipped it to the right chain drugstore in Fairfield, Connecticut -- probably under armed guard. My unique kids bought it for $5.95
They wrapped it very uniquely and handed it to me for Father's Day. I thanked them, the factory workers and the transporters for this unique honor. The trophy proves my kids really are unique. I don't think the offspring of a banana could have done that.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com .