Monday, March 11, 2013

Family: What It Means To Me

I wrote a post last week, and in the post I wrote about my relationship with my brother.  I'll be honest, last week was rough for me.  I tried really hard to make it a fun week because both Piper and I had celebrated our birthdays, but the weekend before, my brother and I went to clean out my uncle's apartment.  I found things I had made him, letters I had written him when I was very, very young and photos of me, in frames, from when I was a child.  Piper had written on a dry erase board in his kitchen over a year ago and he never erased it.  I know him well enough to know that it brought a smile to his face every time he saw it.

the best times are when we are all together

My Family

I have been blessed with a good family.  I have known that since I was very young and all of the teenagers in our neighborhood would come to my house and my dad would help them build go-carts.  My brother and I were just 3 and 5, or 4 and 6, my dad didn't have any teenagers.  He could easily have done what all of the other dads in the neighborhood were doing, what even these teenagers' dads were doing, but he didn't; my dad gave up his time and helped them build go-carts.  Later, he taught them to work on their cars.  As they grew up, if they had a problem of any kind, they came to my parents.  Troubles with girls, money, car trouble, big decisions, you name it.  My dad helped several of them get into his union and they have made lifelong careers and supported their families through a relationship that was begun in our garage over some wood and pipe by a selfless man.

My mom stayed home to raise my brother and I.  It was a sacrifice at times, but she always made us her priority.  She served on the PTO board in every school we attended, all the kids knew her.  When I was in parochial elementary school, the kids in 7th and 8th grade all adored my mom and talked to her about all kinds of things.  When I got to be a teenager, all of my friends said they wished they had a mom like mine!  My mom would joke with them and talk to them and help them when they needed help.  To this day, my friends still joke around with my mom on Facebook.

As children we saw my grandparents, my Naunie, my aunt and uncle at least once a month.  They were a big part of my childhood and we share a lot of fun memories.  Sitting around the table, listening to them talk informed my life, my choices and who I am today.  Family is the people you come from and it's who you are.
happy times

The Importance of Family

I have always known that I could count on my parents, my aunt and uncle, my grandparents and my Naunie.  They have helped us move furniture into our homes, they have listened to my problems, they have taught me things and always shown me love.  I never doubted for one minute how much they loved me or Jason or the girls.   Family is about being there for each other and showing you care.

Sure, there are times when I get annoyed with members of my family, there have been times when we argued, there have been times when we were uncomfortable around each other for one reason or another, but because under it all we love each other, we always forgive each other.  We always find a way to move on.  Family is not about pride, it's about love.

Blending families in marriage can be difficult.  Different families have different ways of doing things and everyone wants to feel loved, everyone wants to know that they are part of things and equally important.

Raising Kids with FAMILY as a value

Jason and I make it a priority to raise our girls to value family.  When you value family, it's very easy to do this.  We always make time to get together with family.  We are blessed that my parents make the time to spend Mondays teaching our girls life skills.  We have family birthday parties, family holidays; we made meeting my uncle at museums in Manhattan a priority; we randomly get together with my brother and sister-in-law; we get together with my Grandma for tea.  Our girls are expected to sit with family when we get together, at least for a while, then they can go play with their cousin.   My girls have special and fun memories of times shared with family.  Through sitting around my Grandma's table sipping tea and eating Pepperidge Farm cookies, my girls learn about what her life was like, they learn about her values, they learn about her parents and her siblings, they hear funny stories about my dad when he was  a kid and they learn more about who they are.  Through meeting my uncle at museums, they saw places and pieces of art that were important to him, they learned the importance of art an the value of studying artists.  There is no doubt in my mind that these will be memories my girls will cherish for the rest of their lives.

When we first started homeschooling, we were very curriculum-driven and when we did a biography unit, the girls interviewed my aunt, my uncle and my grandma about their lives.  These videos are among my biggest treasures, as they have candid and heartfelt stories about my aunt, my uncle and my grandma's experience.  These videos show my girls where they come from.

Family is worth fighting for
I know some family members will stop speaking to each other.  Two of my dad's uncles had a feud over some tools and didn't speak for the rest of their lives.  There are members of Jason's family who handle things this way as well.  It goes against what family means to me and we are raising our girls that not speaking to family members is NOT an option.  You may get upset, you may disagree, you may be angry or hurt for a while, but family is too important to stop speaking to each other.  We have had issues with a member of Jason's family and they chose to sever communication.  We respect their decision, but we have kept the door open by keeping tabs on their blog, keeping them in the loop on important things, even sharing this blog with them (which I know they read because I see it on my statcounter and have for years).  I am not saying we are perfect because we are far from it.  Life is difficult and there is no instruction manual, but you forgive for your own peace of mind and you move on because life is short and having a connection to family is important.

I remember listening to the radio after one of the hurricanes and the deejay was talking about the shelters and how it was so sad how many people were going to a shelter, not just because they were evacuated but because they didn't have family to turn to in a time of crisis.  Some of them may have had family a great distance away with whom they were close, but there were probably some people who just didn't have a good relationship with their family.  That's so sad.  Family is worth fighting for, it's worth swallowing your pride over, it's worth working for and it's worth sacrificing for.
There is something wrong with the fiber of our culture when people can't turn to their family.

  Perhaps their family was abusive or addicts, or maybe they didn't forgive a mistake or maybe someone felt taken advantage of or perhaps there was a difference in lifestyle.  I have heard it said that "Family is Family no matter what" and to some extent, that is true; I don't think you should put yourself in the path of an addict or abuser to get hurt again, but mistakes should be forgiven, differences in lifestyle should be respected (maybe it's not my way, but I still love you) and really, we should make an effort to be there for our family because you will have different jobs and different friends throughout your life, but you will only have one family.  No two people are ever going to agree on everything, there are things your family members may do that drive you nuts, but the world would be a better place if everyone valued family and were willing to put their own needs or pride aside at times for family.