“Family” is the concept that looms largest in my personal horizon. I only realized it in terms of articulating it to myself in 2016. So, this is fairly new: to compose a complete view of why this idea of “family” is so central to my entire life.
I began to understand how it impacts so many of us, although in varying ways and degrees.
Why Me, and Not You?
This is the place where I began to really think, rather than simply struggle.
First, I’m a sixty- something and have lived most of my allotted years. When it comes to family, I went big- I had ten children… and endured long – stayed married for 43 years as a stay-at-home-mom.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I have struggled in one way or another all that time. I never seemed to have really settled within myself. One perennial struggle was to have a cohesive family unit- when what I actually was part of was more like a “herding cats” scenario.
The Light of Dawn
This past year, as I found myself within that familiar cycle of trying to coordinate family get-togethers while everyone else was less than enthusiastic about making plans, I asked myself “Why?”
Why is it so vital to me that we gather together and build relationship, and the others (father and children) seem so indifferent, even resistant? It used to be couched in a “what is wrong with me?”/ “what is wrong with them?” emotional whirlpool, but a different perspective dawned on me.
What is different between us?
That I find the need central, while for them it is peripheral to the rest of their concerns. What explains this conflict of priorities?
- Because I am a woman, and a mom? No, that doesn’t explain it, others aren’t like this.
- Because I made my life choices in that direction? No, it was the impetus, not the outcome.
- Because I came from a broken home? Yes, that begins to explain it.
Not only did I come from a broken home, but I had no real place in my family of origin. I was a rejected black sheep. The reason is not important, but the effect was the key influence of my life. It colored everything.
My husband came from an intact family, as did my children. I believe they see that part of their life, being in a family unit, as a matter of course. It is settled for them.
My great struggle is seeing that such things aren’t settled by default, but must be grown and cultivated. I don’t apologize or dismiss the power of that insight. I do have one great flaw, however… what does such a family look like? How does it form, especially when given such poor soil?
I value family so greatly, because mine was lacking. I wanted to create family in my life.
I Don’t Have Answers, But I Get Inklings
In these big concept struggles of life, I move further from having the answers (as in “one size fits all”), but I get bigger inklings. And those help me. They create more peace and contentment, and make me much easier to get along with as they disconnect my need to fix the world from daily interactions with the people important to me.
10 Great Inklings
- We all have needs for acceptance and love, and it isn’t all about me.
- Keep trying to connect, and try to make the majority of connections loving, supportive, pleasant.
- Leave the past behind. Get to know the person that they are, now.
- Your needs, insights, and contributions are important, so are theirs. Blend, make recipes, value all the ingredients. Know when to leave certain things out of the mix.
- Be there. Be present. Be hospitable. Invite. Engage. Allow. Make clear boundaries.
- Choose to keep trying as long as fruit is possible. Know when to cut down the tree. This comes from Jesus’s parable of the fig tree. To pour yourself out into areas of life that don’t produce means that less is given to those that will. Be productive.
- Glean wisdom, but don’t compare.
- Stop the negativity habits; Encourage positive interactions, speech, attitude, gratefulness, and all things edifying.
- While oversight may be in your hands, control is not.
- You cannot change others, but you can change yourself. That may be the catalyst for circumstances or for others, but it is growth in your own life. It will result in true satisfaction.
My Contribution: A Sense that Family is Important
This lack that became driving force, struggle that became recognition, became what I contribute to the world. I gave it through defiance and by going to war against the norms of my generation. As a SAHM, with homeschooling, home birthing, attempts at homesteading, and having a big family on one (sometimes below average) income.
I don’t contribute the means or the goal, but the concept that a family has intrinsic value for everyone, in some way. That value is not dictated by method, numbers, or even culture.
If the value is dictated by anything, it would be a true understanding of love.
Regrets and the Future
To dwell on regrets is not useful or conducive to change. It only mires one in the past with a distorted filter. We have today, and that forms our future life… with family relationships or otherwise.
People give up on family. Too soon and too often, when it is the messy stuff of living that creates the full spectrum of being.
I believe this is why God has worded relationship with Himself in terms of family. There are many ways we relate to each other, but the closer we are the more we see it in familial connections.
Someone is a sister or mother to us, a father or brother, and a “significant other” is husband or wife. We can’t divorce ourselves from our need to belong. It remains, struggling and gasping for expression.
I want that expression to be a healthy one that promotes growth in each individual. I outlined what that means to me.