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Why a Swan?

I often use the story of the ugly duckling in my work with parents of intense children.  I’ve found that it works for adults too.

This little duck was hatched with a group of lovely and proper ducklings. By comparison he was a terrible disappointment. He had grey feathers instead of yellow and his quack was more like a honk.  He was too large and awkward compared to the other ducklings.  His mother was beside herself.  The teasing and taunting came from all the other ducks along with serious recommendations to ditch the poor little guy.  He ran away only to find himself in worse trouble and the winter coming on.  He eventually found shelter and was able to survive the winter, but his self-esteem did not.   In the springtime he decided to end it all.  In the Hans Christian Andersen version, the ugly duckling flies to a group of swans that had just flown in and landed in his little pond.  He does this thinking that they will kill him for his ugliness; his “swan song” of sorts. It’s not until he bends his head down, waiting for the first blow, that he sees his reflection in the water and understands that he is one of the swans.

The duckling wasn’t ugly, or awkward, or unable to quack. He was a swan. Had he remained with the ducks and never met another swan he may have lived out his life believing himself to be a poor excuse for a duck, being ashamed of his long neck and enormous stature. Instead he found his own kind.

Intense children are often like the ugly duckling.  They are in a minority.  The world isn’t created for or very tolerant of their differences, even though those differences can lead to them being the most amazing and talented adults.  If they go through their lives thinking of themselves as ugly ducklings they are headed for unhappiness with a mindset that identifies them as failures before they begin.  If they understand that they are swans, they are able to develop their gifts and grow to be the beautiful, intelligent and creative creatures they were meant to be.