Thursday, July 19, 2007

we are family

i have been mulling over the topic of family- for obvious reasons (see last post). i also read louise's post over at the sirens- and it ties together for me anyway. i am a child of alcoholism so i looked for family where i could find it. i wanted to run away from mine. my mom worked her heart out and raised my sister and i- and we are the three musketeers- because we had no extended family. her family was rife with petty jealousies and dysfunction- and my dad's family was well- alcoholic. but i looked around at my friend's families for 'normalcy' and i looked to see how 'normal' families behave- and i knew that that was what i wanted. no yelling or cursing. no put downs or misogeny. of course, that begs the question of what 'normal' is.

we have fought ad nauseum in this country about what a family constitutes. is it a dad, mom, and 2.3 kids? is it a mom and mom and 3.3 kids? is it a mom and 2 kids? a dad and 4 kids? 2 dads, a kid and 3 puppies? america has ideals of the way people should live- and the norman rockwell version is as alive and well as it was in the dan quayle era. in fact, here in binghamton, the west side neighborhood association argued with the city council over zoning laws- and what defines a family. landlords can't convert single family homes to rent to students in residential neighborhoods. so there.

i guess what i am trying to say is this- we need to get our heads out of the sand about family. the facade of happy holidays with extended family is real for some and not real for many. we all have knowledge of dysfunctional families and the harm caused- hell, it was my career for 12 years. i didn't have the cleaver family dynamic, but my husband kinda did. my buddy doesn't have either parent and makes her family with relationships with close friends. my other friend is raising her sister's 3 children in the family home with her mom and dad. many people have had family members die or divorce or whatnot. the little girl upstairs is a product of divorce and 'ran away' from home- down the stairs to my apartment. what i am saying is- we need to be the family folks need. family isn't just about genetics and blood relations. hillary took a wrath of shit for saying that 'it takes a village' to raise children- but it's true. where would the little kid upstairs run to if i wasn't willing to open my door? is america to be the orphan of the world? lord knows we are dysfunctional. i don't know that i really have a point. family is just something i was mulling over.


Time said...

I have 6 brothers, 1 sister, and a mother and father (both deceased now). We fought (physically) like cats and dogs. I like the term "unconditional love." There is no such thing as the "utopian" family.

Children need to know they are loved, cared for, cared about, and shown interest in, by adults.

I laugh when the right talks about what constitutes a "correct" family. Like a single person, or two men, or two women, can't raise a loving, normal, well adjusted, intelligent child. The "unconventional" family is nothing new.

For a child, love and acceptance by adults, is where they find it. If not at home then maybe a teacher, someone like you, a big brother or sister, anyone who has the best interests of the child, can show love, build self confidence and self esteem, while the child goes through the pains, mistakes, and insecurities of growing up.

It's the misguided Puritan morals of the right that builds guilt and low self esteem within a child.

Abusive situations are another disaster. I don't have the skills to talk about what's best for them (I'm probably over my head in this issue at all) except I think changing that situation, can only be good for the child.

The time this child spends with you might be the happiest times of her day, or life, so good job and keep that relationship going.

Peacechick Mary said...

Well said, as usual, Betmo. Family is not necessarily blood relation. I have friends who are as dear to me as any blood relative, maybe more.

just me said...

For once, Betmo, we are in total agreement. Family consists of people coming together to support one another, IMHO. To me, this is why gangs are so prevalent and such a part of society. Groups of young people, banding together, trying desperately to carve out a place in the world where they feel they will be safe, no matter what the cost. A place to belong.

I look back on my humble beginnings, and count myself lucky, that I am not one of those young kids out there, trying so hard to find someone to call family.

Or one of the elderly, locked away in some nursing home, waiting day after day for a visit, from someone, anyone, a familiar face, a family member.

To me, any group of people who can come together, and live in support and love for one another, have created a family. And blood really has nothing to do with it. Love and caring is what makes a family.

Larry said...

I think down deep we all have families with dysfunction, some much more than others.

I have family through all their problems I care about, but I also have a close friend in Nashville, who with her husband are more family to me than my own.

We all need to be there for someone, as someone will always be there for us.

Good post!

shawn (aka blogstud) said...

hey b, 2 more weeks of school and intersnhip, yeah!

Thanks for doing this post. you are the best. I wish more people were as enlightened as you. I do mean enlightened. I still am amazed at how many Americans feel justified in trying to determine what is acceptable for other Americans. When will they ever learn?

My wanting to marry the partner of my choice has nothing to do with their marriage, family, etc. It does have to do with me living my life as I see fit.

I remember how shocked me and my fellow classmates were a few years back to find out that an Indian exchange student was to be in an arranged marriage. well, telling someone they cannot marry another adult is just as bad as telling someone they have to marry another adult not of his or her choosing.

I do wish more people thought like you, b. have a great weekend.