What does family mean to you?


For me, family is everything.  I live, and would die, for my family.  Included in this are some incredibly close friends who have become de facto family members. But everyone’s version of family is different. My parents (and D’s parents) will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversaries this year.  This dynamic and the fact that my parents are still married definitely impacts our relationship.

I see nothing wrong or weird that my immediate family (parents, spouse, two siblings) know exactly how much each other makes (our siblings … not our parent’s income!).  It’s totally normal to me that my parents know how much educational debt I have.  And I think it’s a sign of a strong family but  I understand not everyone is the same. Some time ago I was really busy with personality quizzes and job quizzes.

But some people would not agree. I have a friend that finds it so strange that we all know everyone’s financial information.  Acquaintances who don’t think it’s “appropriate” to ask a daughter how much she spent on her house.

Not only do I plan to tell my parents how much I pay for my house, if possible I want them to help me pick out a good house!

I appreciate and value my parent’s opinions.  I want to learn from their mistakes.

That does not mean I won’t go against their wishes if I disagree with them.  But it does mean I will think really hard about something before doing something my parents don’t think is wise.

Is this normal?  Is there a “normal” family?  Does a normal family dynamic exist?  Or is each unique?

It’s probably the latter.

Each family is itself a unique group of people with experiences, expectations and demands.

Do I roll my eyes when my dad calls me 5 times in one day because I haven’t been near my phone to pick up?  Yes.  But do I feel disconnected when I haven’t spoken to him in a few days? Yes.

My mother talked on the phone with her mother multiple times a day when we were growing up.  Pre-caller ID (I know … unconscionable now!) when the phone would ring, we’d laugh and declare “it’s grandma,” and we were usually right.

I truly think my family has a healthy relationship.  We are very involved in each other’s lives.  True.  But we also care deeply about each other.  And would do anything necessary for each other.

My family changed when I married D.  And now my sister, V, is getting married in November to M.  That again is going to change my family.

M’s family dynamic is different than ours and there will be adjustments.

But in the end, we are an extremely close family who ultimately want what is best for the other person.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We can’t choose family

We’ve all said it, you can’t choose your family.  Oh that you could … day dream over!

We say it when our family does something we don’t like, or we feel the need to defend our relationship with this family member.

But sometimes it’s more serious.

Each of my parents have a brother.  My dad and his brother are ridiculously close.  I mean they talk multiple times a day.  They are very involved in each others life.  When I got engaged, my uncle was furious my dad hadn’t told him ahead of time.  There is also a 12 year age difference and their biological dad died when my dad was 2 so I am sure that has a role in their relationship.  From time to time there are downsides but overall, I love seeing my dad with such a close relationship to his brother.

Now contrast that with my mom.

She doesn’t talk to her brother.  At all.  When my mom’s parents were alive, there was a bridge.  My uncle was somewhat involved in our lives because my grandparents involved him.  But they have since died.

My mother once asked her brother why he hated her so much.  His response was that their parents had treated her better than him.  (Now to be fair, I cannot remember if I heard him say this over the phone or if she told me he said this. This distinction would only matter as to credibility. )

As a result, my mother and uncle have no relationship.  A few years ago, I sent my uncle and aunt an email saying hi and trying to build a bridge.  My parents knew what I was doing, weren’t thrilled but didn’t try to stop me.  After a handful of emails back and forth, I was going to meet my aunt and uncle for lunch near my job.  This was only a few weeks before grad school started and my aunt was a high school teacher so she was going back to work as well.  We emailed back and forth for location and time.

I went.  And I remember thinking wouldn’t it be ironic if after all this I was stood up.  Well … I was.  They never showed.

Now when I got back to the office, I sent them an email. My aunt claimed that my latest email confirming lunch had gotten sent to her spam folder (even though previous emails went through).  I had tried calling her cell while at lunch (I didn’t have my uncle’s number) and it kept going to voicemail.

My aunt apologized.  I tried to believe her and understand.  But school was about to start for both of us so we weren’t going to be able to reschedule for a few weeks.  She promised to send me an email to set up a time.

That was August 2005.

When D and I got engaged I went back and forth on whether to invite this uncle/aunt to my wedding.  My position is they are family.

But D and I decided we would leave the decision up to my mom.  And we did.  And she said she’d feel more comfortable if he wasn’t there.  So we didn’t invite him.

(Don’t laugh) in watching Real Housewives of NJ lately with family strife, it makes me sad that I have zero relationship with that uncle.  I have a very small family and two people missing is noticable.

Last night I toyed around with the idea of contacting him.  Or giving my information to a mutual Aunt (my great aunt, my uncle’s aunt) who still speaks to both of our sides and telling her to tell him if he wants to get in touch, to use my email.

How much would this hurt my parents? And am I brave enough to do this?  And do I even want to?

My uncle and I were never close, unfortunately.  And we do have some personality and political differences.  But he is family.  Is that enough?  You can’t choose your family…

What do you think I should do?