Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Family Matters

Family matters, as in a list of things we need to discuss as a family at a family meeting or family matters as in, family is important to me and it matters.

How did you read the title? The first explanation or the second?

Family is the discussion word lately in my family and today, in class, we talked about what a "real" family is. Isabella asked me what a normal family is? I asked her to define normal and then we could move forward with our discussion.

I don't use the words "normal family" in my language very often because normal is all relative. I grew up in a dysfunctional family but in my world, that was my normal. It wasn't until I grew up with a family of my own that I started to understand that my normal was not the same as the next person's normal. Does my family today feel better than the one I grew up in? Yes. Does it matter to me that my family is different? Yes. Did I intend for my own family to be different from the one I grew up in? Absolutely.

Isabella asked me if we were normal. I replied, "I'm not sure."

Do I want us to be normal? Again, I'm not sure. I want us to be happy.  Is that normal? To me, yes.

I've struggled this week with extended family. I've struggled with opposing opinions. I've had to dig deep to define what I am okay with and what I am not okay with when it comes to boundaries. I've walked back in time with dealing with family matters once again.

Our extended families are important to us because we have fun when we are together. We laugh and tell jokes. We help when needed. We eat our meals together. Our kids are attached to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I guess you could say we are bonded.  That is when we are all together.

When we are together we are able to put aside differences of religion and politics. It's easy to pretend for a short amount of time that we are all the same. The reality is we are not. After a few days our guards ease and words slip. Phrases come out with more zing and zeal than the day before. We start to see how the etiquette of politeness start to unwind a bit. I have to ask myself is this how families are today?  We pretend.

On top of this, add the time we spend apart physically. With social media we get to see everything they like, post, comment on, and share.  Sometimes, we see a different person on the virtual world than we do in person. Is this a problem? For me, its weird. When the perspectives don't line up--in person with family versus away from family--it feels off. This is an example. Someone says they are pro LGBT-Q.  Then they comment on a social media post about LGBT-Q rights that contradicts their earlier pro comments. How are we suppose to make sense of this?  Are you for or against LGBT-Q?

My son said to me that we are a fake society. I asked him what he meant by that. He told me that we pretend to like everyone. Is this true? Is this what families today do? Are we so fragmented that we have to pretend to like each other in order to be apart of the norm of our society and be with a family.

I explained to him that adults are complicated. Especially when grandchildren are involved. Past, present, and future selves create unique relationships based on our experiences. Sometimes the past comes into the present. As much as I try to stay present, there are times the past surpasses my best intentions.  My mind travels to all three locations.

Family matters can really start to weigh on our society in difficult and uneasy times. I think this is one of those times in our history. Our country seems divided by cultural norms and values. These uneasy times allow us to think about our own family life and decided what part of our family values matter. We question our norms. Does family matter when politics and religion are involved? Should we just ignore those opinions or do they create a fake bond that is obvious by our own children?  What message does this send to our kids?

We have a party this weekend. Isabella turns 10. My parents are coming. We sit on opposite sides of the political fence. It's been a difficult, and at times, our togetherness has lead to heated discussions. We try to avoid this topic at all cost but it seems that something always comes up that starts a discussion.

It's silly that this is what our family functions have come to. Maybe it's just me. I don't know. I used the rowing machine for 30 minutes today. It helps.

I know the easy thing to say is to not talk about it. To avoid it. I struggle with this because how do we listen and learn so we can improve or understand? I don't want to change their opinions but I do want to understand why they feel the way they do. I need to go into this weekend with an open mind, listening ears, and a gentle approach.

I say this, because, at the end of the day these family matters rest heavy on my soul because, to me, family matters.

Two things I did this week to help me be proactive about my choices to walk the walk of where I stand in my value system. I deleted my Facebook account. It's been deactivated but today I decided to make it permanent. I feel parts of social media are hindering the balance of families. Not all, but our extended family has suffered hurt feelings and it has damaged relationships. The "fake" news seems to be rampant. I can't support this platform anymore. The second thing I am doing is relearning Spanish. I am determined to know a second language so that I can communicate with those in my area who speak Spanish. I hope to use this language to bridge the gap of understanding and listening. With my future profession in the field of psychology and neuroscience I want this skill set. It's important to me and my kids and our community.

I would love to hear if any of this is something you are dealing with in your own family and what advice you would give. How are you handling the political divide, if it exist, in your own family? Maybe this isn't a divide for your family and none of this makes any sense to you. Your comments are important too because this gives us balance in seeing a fuller picture of what everyone's normal is.

As always, thank you for reading and listening to my thoughts.


PS--On a side note, I started a celery stump in a bit of water to see if it would grow.  It is! I am so happy. I do this with our green onions and recently read the list of 25 things you can regrow. I will keep you posted as to how it taste and how fast it grows.  HERE is the link if your are interested.

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