“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” –Robert Frost
As another holiday comes and goes, it seems like a good idea to reflect on family. According to dictionary.com, family is defined as “a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.” By this definition, who we call family is mere happenstance. Well, at least until we succumb to the inevitable pressures of society and get married, thus beginning a new family. However, in many cases this new dynasty is then extended to include our previous familial ties. Basically, the older we get, the more blurred the traditional lines become. Inherent in this ever increasing family circle, rises conflict both old and new which leads one to a number of observations about its affect on our life. For instance:
The familiarity of family is both a blessing and a curse. A great deal of solace can be found in being connected to the same people for a large portion of life. Knowing no matter how much things change, there are always people who (theoretically at least) will be there to fall back on. However, this double edged sword has a less savory side. Namely, due to this closeness and familiarity, family has a tendency to endlessly frustrate us. Furthermore, when a family member dramatically changes, it is all the more unsettling when this bastion of consistency reveals its less reliable side. Not even family is immune to the duality of life.
Parental influence expands far beyond childhood. Probably goes without saying, but our parents are the single greatest influence on our development during our early childhood years. It is where many of our values and beliefs originate. In some cases, this is a good thing when those values are things like honesty and integrity. However, when a parent pulls an Anakin Skywalker and falls to the dark side the effects on one’s personality can continue well into adulthood. Be it the infamous “daddy/mommy issues” or the myriad of other psychological maladies that arise from previous parental problems, the darker side of family influence is something to keep in mind as we traverse through life.
Our family does not have to define us. While there are those who have no problem being defined by their families (I am looking at you Kim Kardashian), for some of us, avoiding such a definition would far more preferable. Fortunately, while we are a product of our upbringing, we all have the opportunity to continue to grow throughout out lives, independent of family influence. Does this mean we should abandon our family the first chance we get in some ill-conceived attempt at erasing their influence. Of course not. Instead, we should be cognizant of the fact we have the ability to accomplish our goals and create our own path in life, while maintaining these family ties. Even if it sometimes means having hard conversations or taking a “break” from one another. While we may not be able to control the family we are born into, ultimately we determine who we become.