Sunday, January 13, 2008

Family

There's a saying: You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. I don't think this is precisely true. My personal belief is that your soul does pick your parents. If your parents are abusive or assholian towards you, their children, this is not your fault - it is the free will of the parents. They are not supposed to be abusive or cruel; they are likely in a situation where they are supposed to resist violence. If they don't, they'll have to deal with this conflict in the next lifetime. Or the next. Hopefully parents are kind, loving and compassionate towards their children. I think everyone can agree on that.

Our parents are who they are, flaws and all. Some of us come from loving homes with kind, nuturing and supportive parents. Some of us come from homes that make the Manson family look like Father Knows Best. I'm sure most of us fall somewhere in between.

The more I think about family, the kind I came from as well as friends' families, the more I've been thinking about the kind of family I want to have. Me, Mr. Right and the Bee. That's our family right there. Mr. Right and I have been talking about this a lot, too. We like the Cleaver kind of family setting, but updated: Happy, productive Dad, nurturing, guiding, firm but loving. Handy around the house and enjoys fixing things: taking things apart and puts them back together, good as new. Happy, domestic Mom, cooking, straightening up (good Lord, who has time to clean! Subcontract that job out!), working nearly full-time, takes time to play and read with the kids. A firm, loving teacher who also knows that putting her needs first is not only important but essential. Once your own needs are met, you can happily see to the needs of everyone else. I learned from my own mother what not to do: putting everyone else first, thereby creating deep seated resentment for everyone in your family which you then use as ammunition in any argument. ("I ALWAYS put you kids first!" shrieked while squinting eyes and clenching teeth). Happy joy.

We spent Christmas Eve at my In-Laws, as we do each year. It was a little cold, and they seemed so high strung with the Bee, now 21 months, running around. "No! Come here! Don't touch that! Here! Come here! Sit with Omie! No! Sit!" Yeagh! The tension! When we left, Mr. Right let loose what had been bothering him about the visit.

"My father barely said two words to me! He was so cold and distant - he's always been moody. Yet he hovers over the Bee like a sticky shadow! And what was with them freaking out over everything Bee did? Calm down. Give the kid some room already! And you know what? You are absolutely right to wait to eat until everyone is seated and has been served. Absolutely right! It's just common courtesy! They never wait! They're like scavengers! Would it kill them to wait and start the meal together like a family?!"

Mr. Right grew up in a household fraught with tension and anxiety; screaming matches were the norm, usually lasting 4 or 5 days out of the week. His dad would be gone for days at a time, and his mother would endlessly complain about his "useless" father. Not something a boy needs to hear growing up.

I grew up in what I thought was a normal household. I didn't find out until later that it wasn't normal for your mother to tell you she wanted to kill herself all the time. My father didn't really know how to be a dad, but he learned. He was loving and at the same time, not amused by the usual-kid antics my brother and I pulled off. "I fail to see the humor," was his favorite refrain we heard most often. But he also went to my father-daughter dance my junior year in high school when he was sick as a dog with a fever. At least he keeps learning and getting better.

We can't control the kinds of families we came from, but we can create the family life we want to have. For example, we have dinner every night as a family. Either Mr. Right or I cook (depending on our schedules), we sit down together, say grace, and enjoy conversation over dinner. Obviously, we don't expect the Bee to wait to start eating, especially if we get started a little later, but he holds our hands as we say grace and says "Okay!" after the amen. We were not really a say-grace-before-dinner family before, but it seems like such a nice way to start the meal. And, of course, to give thanks for the food we are about to eat.

Bee sees common pleasantries exchanged between his parents on a daily basis... Please and thank-yous have always been said, we laugh a lot and genuinely enjoy each others company. Our household is relaxed and easy going. We're affectionate, hugging and kissing frequently. The only time we have the television is when we're watching something with Bee, or put something on to accomplish a task (Findi.ng Nem.o, Rata.touille, Toy Sto.ry and the like).

I do wish I could be home with Bee more often, but I need to work. As in, we couldn't afford to hire someone for the work I do. Unless, of course, Mr. Right did all my work, too, in which case he would never see Bee and we would be two ships passing in the night. Naturally, this is not acceptable to either of us, so we are truly fortunate to have Mr. Right's dad watch Bee during the day. He's not ideal, but he's far from a bad choice and we have to work with what we have.

Naptime has really straightened itself out, by the way. As of my typing these words right here, he has been sleeping for 1 hour and 22 minutes. I put him in his crib, when he said "Stay," I said I would certainly stay for a while. I put his little blanket over him as he got into his favorite position, perpendicular at the top of the crib. I sat down on the floor next to him and told how how much I loved him, how happy we were that he choose us and was a part of our family. Within five minutes his little thumb started to slide out of his mouth. I got up, put the monitor on and left the room with the door open just a crack. 1 hour 28 minutes; not bad. I know my in-laws do the exact same thing, so it really works out. That's a huge relief for me.

Gotta run- Bee is up from his nap: 1 hour, 35 minutes. I'll take it! I hope you all are well. Good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

6 Comments:

At 1/13/2008 8:11 PM, Blogger Suz said...

It sounds like you all have put into place a routine that really works for you! I would love to have the twins eat with us, but for now, having them eat before we do works. And, you're right, it does take some thought not to just replicate the habits of the past.

 
At 1/15/2008 9:24 AM, Blogger Liv said...

You said it all, and very well I might add. I have also said that I learned what not to do from my mother. E and I had extension conversations about what we wanted to gain from our family lifestyle and I think it really made a difference. We regulary check in with each other to make sure we are still on the same track and it helps so much. I love the little family that we have created together and I can only wish that Dani takes what we have modeled for her and makes her family even better.

 
At 1/17/2008 11:08 AM, Blogger Kath said...

Dear Anna, it's so good to finally get caught up with you! Please forgive me for my long absence.

This post really resonated with me. My family was ultra-competitive and there were lots of screaming matches at the table, and my mother was very passive-aggressive, laying on the guilt really thickly. It was a really long learning process to get those habits out of my system. For a long time, I would really cringe after having misspoken, expecting my partner to make fun of me. It was a revelation to me when he didn't -- that people could choose just to let things go. That family life could be... really pleasant and even polite! And I hope we can pass on these better habits to our daughter. Your rituals sound great. I love that "Okay" of Bee's after the amen!

 
At 1/18/2008 10:44 AM, Anonymous pixi said...

I can relate to so much of what you wrote here!

I think having an awareness, as you do, of what you want (and don't want) in your family life really helps. Of course nobody's perfect, but you've got to keep striving to create that positive environment.

 
At 6/20/2008 9:09 PM, Blogger Clover said...

Hey you- has it really been 5 months since you posted? What's new with you? Hope all is well.

 
At 12/26/2016 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello dear! Thank you so much for this wonderful blog! I think it will be very helpful for some women) I have PCOS and I know how it feels. I've been in treatment for years. Unfortunately it brought zero result. I'm currently pregnant with twins from donor egg. I should say now I have no feeling my babies are not mine genetically. To be honest I had some doubts. I didn't know how I feel about the procedure... I thought maybe I should wait and try something else and it will help me to get pregnant. But we'd found out that the likelihood of having our own children was practically zero. So ivf with donor egg was our last and only one option. I have a very 'modern' family with step parents/brothers/sisters, half siblings and step nieces and nephews etc. Genetics really means nothing to me. People who raise and love you are your true family. In the beginning my dh wasn't fully on board. We had some very serious arguments about the procedure. But when he found out I was pregnant everything in him changed! The babies I'm carrying are our children and will always be ours. It's such a hard decision to make, I know. Only you will ever know if it's right for you or not as it's not right for some people. I look at it like at usual treatment of infertility. Doctors just help you a little bit. And then you carry/ give birth/ raise - do what usual parents do. We still haven't decided whether or not we'll ever tell the babies about the donor. But we're definitely not telling anyone else how we came to be pregnant. It's only our business. I don't see something super special in it so everyone should know. These babies are mine. I really feel it and I don't make myself to do so)

 

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