Adulting: A Mini Series, Part VI
So, truth be told, family is a large part of my life that I’m not consciously putting effort into maintaining. It’s a section of my life that I’m grateful to be able to care for, as if things were automated. It probably helps that I’m an only child, so realistically I have far less people to stay in contact with, but still. I know that I’m lucky that I talk to my parents often and enjoy doing it.
When I was brainstorming this blog series and I was trying to decide what categories and topics I wanted to include, I realized that family, during your twenties, is massively important, and probably is the area we think about the least.
In our early twenties we are consumed by finals, date parties, our tribe, and maybe landing a job. When we hit our mid-twenties, we are consumed by work, by entering into the “real world.” And then we start approaching our late twenties. Family takes on a whole new meaning. Not only are we more aware of our own families and the dynamics that come into play, we are also beginning to consider, if we haven’t already, if we want our own family. Maybe even for some of you, you have your own family now and you’re at a point where you’re deciding what values, traditions, and customs you want as you move forward.
Regardless of where you’re at in your twenties, or where you stand on future plans, it’s important to recognize that you wouldn’t be here, reading this blog, pondering these thoughts, if it weren’t for your family. Your mom and dad created you and have influenced who you are. Sure, we aren’t all nature and genetics. There is the nurture part where your friends, coaches, and teachers impacted you as well, but it is undeniable that you are a large part of you because of your upbringing.
Duh, Marina. I know all of this. What’s your point?
My point is that you are at a pivotal place in your relationships within your family and you are at, or coming close, to a crucial spot where you get to decide who your family will be.
Every family has their thing: a struggle, tension, elephant in the room, awkward dynamics. There is no need to be ashamed about it. Chances are, whatever the dark side of your family is, it began when you were too young to control it. You got wrapped up in this dysfunction and probably didn’t even understand it when it started.
Now that you’re an older, wiser person, you see it. You see the side glances over Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve heard your mom vent about her sisters. You recognize that the way your siblings treated you when you were younger was more than sibling rivalry— it was straight up mean. You see all of this now and don’t know what to do with this new-found wisdom.
Get curious. Understand it. Figure out your role in this play. Are you the peace keeper? Are you in the instigator? Do you become invisible? There are so many ways you play a part in these dynamics. The easiest way to change how your family system works, is to disrupt the normal flow.
Example: You are normally a people pleaser. You let your family decide what is for dinner, what movie will be watched, where you will go on vacation. Cue in wiser you, you make a decision. You take a stand for what you want to do instead of defaulting to the majority.
Now, the result likely won’t be pretty. Individuals don’t do well with change; imagine a whole family changing at once. But the trick is you have to be consistent with your new role. Think about the new version you want to be seen as and embody that every time you interact with your family.
What’s nifty about this is that it will likely carry into your other relationships. Chances are if you’re a people pleaser with your fam, you are a people pleaser with your friends, and likely your significant other. As your role changes around your parents, watch as your behavior begins to shift in other ways. This is the first step in choosing how you want your family to be.
And when I say your family, I’m talking future. How you want to be as a wife, as a mother, and a daughter-in-law— all of that is impacted by how you show up and take on a certain role. You don’t have to stay invisible. You don’t need to be the peace keeper. Show up in your family of origin the same way you want to show up with your (future) family, regardless if they exist or not.
And sticking with that idea, the other massive choice you have in creating your (future) family is who you marry or settle down with. The person you allow into your life for the long-term will have one of, if not the biggest roles, moving forward and this is something that we are lucky enough to get to choose for ourselves.
Maybe our parents didn’t model the best marriage or relationship and so you consciously assess what worked and what didn’t- and avoid that. Maybe they have a wonderful life together and you get intentional on trying to figure out what the secret is to maintaining that bond. We can look at our family of origin for frame of reference and note the good and the bad; the darkness and the light.
Use this information to your benefit. Craft your beautiful family. Create traditions that fill you up. Seek out the good in your family that brought you into this world and be grateful for what they have taught you. Your fam of origin and future fam will thank you for it.