Wanna hear the most beautiful, complicated, perfectly imperfect word I know, family. Oprah Winfrey

The family is everything Oprah said, and more. When you grow up in a family you think everyone else’s family is more or less like your own. We all think we live in an ordinary family. This is why bad things that happen in families are normalized, and so are extraordinary things.

Some people live in close proximity to their family members; that implies they are close, but it is not always true. Those of us who live far away from our families know there is distance, and then there is distant. We may be far away but very close, and we may be close but very distant.

We have close families where everything and everyone’s business is up for discussion. Other families are closed to talking about personal subjects. Important things may not get discussed. Are these the families where the elephants in the living room bump into each other?

The one thing we know is, no family is perfect. Our families are made up of imperfect people, so how can they be perfect? The worst thing to do is to pretend to be perfect, instead of embracing ourselves warts and all. We are what we are, mistakes were made, we tried to do our best, most of the time. Maybe we pretended to do our best and won’t acknowledge our shortcomings. Some people have a whole different side of themselves they never revealed to those they love. We hear about children learning their father was a serial killer. How do they square that with the loving father they knew?

It can be very hard if our parents cannot accept us for what we are. They wanted high achieving career oriented children. They wanted family-oriented children. Sometimes it seems we can’t please others. The truth is we can’t, we can be the best we can be, and we will fall short of our own expectations as well. We will make mistakes, sometimes the mistakes will be cheap, and sometimes they will be costly. What we learn from our mistakes are lessons we could probably learn no other way.

It might have been easier when families were large. Expectations of each child were smaller. Now we only have one or two children, and we pin all our hopes and dreams on them.

It’s a burden they might not be able to bear. Their idea of success and ours might be completely different. We may feel they need to stay close. They may feel the need to spread their wings and move to far-flung places.

Our children need to find their way, as we found ours, or didn’t in some cases. We made our missteps, and they will make theirs. The love we have for our family is not supposed to be conditional. When I think of some of the terrible choices made by people, how do the choices not affect the relationship?

Marriage, families, all relationships are more a process of learning the dance rather than finding the right dancer. Unknown

One of my nephews says “we love them cause their kin.” He’s right; we wish we could be proud of them. We often hear the expression, “every family has them.” They mean of course the person struggling with the “isms”. They might suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health, gambling, anger problems, criminality etc. We wish they would get help, overcome, make better choices, and maybe they will.

Really smart people misbehave in maladaptive ways that can’t lead to anything but a life of ruin, and dysfunction. We may hate the choices they make, but we need to try to love the sinner but not the sin so to speak. If we only love our family members when they are on the right track, what kind of love is that?

We create our families with rose-colored glasses, as we stand at the altar or move in with one another. It is the beginning of a new family, but we are tied to the family we were born into with all that entails. Life is messy, crazy, and stressful.

In the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck the author Mark Manson says “The problems in our romantic relationships always eerily resemble the problems in our parent’s relationship.”

Wow, do we even know what was going on in our parent’s marriage thirty years ago? Are undercurrents somehow bubbling up in our relationships and we don’t recognise where they are coming from and that is the problem? These situations are generational. How are we to deal if this is indeed part of the problem?

Is this how the sins of the father are brought down the generations? Do we unknowingly recreate patterns we saw played out in our family of origin and bring them to the family we are building?  We may not even realise what the cause of the angst in our life is. We don’t understand why some things affect us the way they do. If things aren’t what they seem, could we be viewing them through a lens coloured by our parent’s relationship?

How is a spouse to deal with this? As the dysfunctions of each family of origin play out in our marriage, how could it be anything but messy, some of the time? Wherever we go, there we are, we can’t leave our families behind for good or ill. We take them with us and we work through the issues or we don’t. Life is so much more complicated than it seems.

Is creating lasting relationships both the challenge and the reward of a life well lived?

Family is like music, some high notes, some low notes, but always a beautiful song. Unknown

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