The Heart of the Matter
Family is a union rich in trials, successes, dreams, losses, mistakes, conflict and forgiveness, our first introduction to the full spectrum of life. Hopefully, for many of us Family is support offered to each other during all these life events. Family can be a shoulder to offer, and to lean on, to celebrate with when jumping up for joy and to fall upon when we’re on our knees sobbing.
I have many families; my biological family and by extension my gracious in-laws, my friends, roommates, and co-workers, each group their own respective source of family. These are my people, the ones with whom I reciprocally share the difficulties and triumphs, the pain and the joy, the heartbreak and the renewal of the complexities of life.
But most enjoyably, family are the people I laugh with till tears stream our faces, while doubled over giggling and rolling on the floor. That’s my favorite, but that’s just me.
I have experienced and loved them all.
Are all my forms of family perfect? Sometimes, never, always; for isn’t that the definition of family, being there even though not perfect. We often have a more extensive level of forgiveness for our families than we have for others.
“ I know my feelings are hurt, but she’s my sister” or “ He was really irritable tonight, but then he’s my stressed out father.”
This is good in the sense that it stretches our ability to be accepting of the variety in humankind. But it can be detrimental if we are forgiving family members who are abusive. We may have to demand “no” or secede from that family member or group when we are of age, or if not, we may get social services to intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes as a child we just have to wait.
My biological family was only moderately capable of emotional stability in our younger years and we siblings were soured of our parents by the time we left home. But our family in time was able to grow and forgive, and in later years our mother and father supported our dreams in many ways. My siblings and I have grown closer as we’ve aged and understand more comprehensively the value of family. And we continue to bond with our only living Parent now, our aging father.
On the other hand my communal friends from the hippie days, bonded quickly of common causes (dig it, man!) and threw ourselves fearlessly into unpredictable relations and living arrangements. With good intentions and open hearts we tried on and learned more of human interactions and group dynamics… than may be possible.
Still friendly to this day, many of our hippie group have sustained ongoing loving and supportive relationships for some forty years now.
Family is a renewable resource.
Family Through the Years
After an ongoing lifetime of exploring the learning curves of this here life (whew!), family has become my most revered tribute of life, more than what work I have, what art I explore, what finances, travels or adventure I enjoy. It all comes down to family, family in all its forms.
I saw this same concentrated value on family as my parent and friends’ parents aged. My dad who had once been consumed with work, money and being successful, had achieved that priority with great success. My mom seemingly overwhelmed, achieved raising five children, managed the household and maintained the striking beauty queen that she was.
My parents loved us and raised us the best they could, but during their parenting years many other competing priorities grabbed their attention.
I think this is a common conundrum in young families braving the Olympic endeavor of life. At least we are graced with the enthusiasm and energy of our youth, as we are building our families, choosing the partner to parent our children (or other choices), learning to navigate the intricacies of life, seeking and practicing our work aptitudes, figuring finances, and in my case still learning to cook and do laundry!
Ok that’s a lie, I don’t cook and in the wise words of my sister, “I told my fiancee I don’t cook…but I can order a mean takeout!”
Guilt and Forgiveness
I think guilt is a common feeling among us parents who have so many challenges during the years we are raising our children. Juggling our lifestyle sets limits on how much we can play, teach and generally just spend time with our children. This sets up a push-pull challenge that leaves us feeling that we have never done enough.
And then there is the underlying guilt that we may be ruining our children and could have handled various incidents and situations better. Partially we feel this because it’s true. Yes, we probably could have handled some things better. But we certainly could have handled things worse also. Learning from experience and forgiving ourselves…justified.
Knowing that most, if not all, parents feel guilt helps us to forgive ourselves a smidgeon.
Even as a grandmother, I have to forgive myself for the guilt of knowing, that compared to raising my son, I now have more time and focus to play, read, laugh and give my undivided attention to my granddaughter.
When I am graced by her visit, I attend to all my busyness first, so I have the time and focused attention for the precious hours she is with me. I love our time together and spend nearly every moment engaged in our interactions.
A Grandmother’s Hope
Raising my son and looking to a hopeful and secure (ok that’s a myth, but constant change is not) future for him were a priority in our young and ongoing parenting years. My son’s dad and I never argued over who was right in questions about his rearing. We only wanted to find the best answer and it mattered not which one initiated that answer…well, ok, it was usually me…I mean him…I mean me…
And at the same time we were wrestling with career choices, school and trainings, parental education and responsibilities … batting at the hardballs while accomplishing and relinquishing the dreams of the unrelenting potentials of life.
Why are we here? Who am I? What do I want? What is best for my family? And most importantly, what’s with this sweet tooth?!
Now in my sixth decade, I leave many unique, risky behaviors and lifestyles behind (as in hippie) and many career choices now fading into quarter-time endeavors.
Love has been sealed, while waving farewell to relationships. I have wrestled finances, the lean and the fruitful years, never to feel impoverished no matter the amount of money. I continue to find new interests, now braving bodybuilding and writing.
But nothing grabs my attention like family. While family has been valuable in all eras of life, I conclude that it comes front and center with age as the upheaval of navigating my way through life has calmed with experience.
I have more time and peace to truly appreciate the value of all my family groups and most heartfelt, the love for my son’s family and their gift of my granddaughter, now the life-renewing enthusiastic joy of my life.
I just hope she doesn’t hitchhike like I did!
- Happy Kids and Respectful Discipline
- Happy Kids vs. Temper Tantrums
- Happy Kids and Healthy Behaviors
Family was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.