If a picture is worth a thousand words then suffice it to say, that a family portrait is worth a million, or more. Families with all their unwritten rules and invisible lines are more intricate than the fine print on any online subscription or processed food label. Are multi-generational extended family units a thing of the past?
More Than Ever Before Relationships Require Plugging In
Families stayed together, over the eons, because they needed to, for survival. Plain and simple. Warmth, shelter, food, and safety. Today families have to want to stay together. And I mean want it like the next release of the iPhone or self-driving cars (so we can be on our phones more). Yes, we need to want it that bad.
Like I tell my clients, in all types of relationships, if you are not moving forward, intentionally with purpose, then the tide will move you backward. The tide and undercurrents of our busy lives pull us backwards to a relational shoreline we no longer recognize. Lost with no way home. Without swimming against these forces we turn around and find that we don’t have much left that we can even recognize of a family, or the people we once counted on. Relationships take effort and intentionality. At the very least, relationships require your attendance, and attention. Yes that means showing up and plugging in.
Extended Families Are Uniquely Generational
Does everyone think like I do about families and deeper connection? Well, no, but then again I think I was raised by Oprah. See now that makes sense right. I can say that in all kindness because I love Oprah, and I think she may even like me, her child. I also know that my mother would tell you herself that all this feelings talk is too much and we just need to “move on”. There-in lies a fundamental truth with extended families. Well, they are so you know, generational.
So, totally generational. The way my mother and father were raised and what their parents and the world taught them about survival is so radically different from what I teach my children and what they learn in the world. There are parental, political, economic, religious, lifecycle, and lifestyle differences to name a few. Plus possibly the worst offender, the dreaded difference in communication.
Family Ties Need Not Be So Easily Undone
With the “who said what to whom” game, like tin cans and string, there are whole branches of the family tree cutoff over a simple disagreement or misunderstanding. Communication is the “work” in relationships that everyone is talking about. Who doesn’t have a family story that ends in this cliched and predictable way? And that seems unfortunate, to me. Yet, at other times I think maybe the security and survival, once the goal of families, turned on itself and made the broken bonds seem like the only way out for some members? Plus now, is it possible that we just lack the attention span or care that survival required of us, to stay together? Maybe it’s because I was raised by Oprah or because I am a Family Therapist, but it just seems sad and ironic that what we once so desperately needed for survival, rooting us all in time and space, has become somehow dusty and obsolete.
Everyday Sharing Knits Us Together
But I still think there is a need for family, grown deep and wide, as it were. This emotional need embedded in our human fiber longing for people who get us, or at least know where we come from and with whom we shared the same road, even only for awhile. It’s also the sharing of the everyday things, not just once a year, that knit us together, stitch by stitch, day by day, as treasured kin. This human longing to belong and to be a part of not only our larger communities but smaller units, once revered and valued, in the more gloried days of the extended family.
So if you can’t join one today, or the pain of the past is too great, consider making your own. Start making your family of the future, great today, through your own personal work. By figuring out yourself, how you tick and growing and healing emotionally.
If you had one, please reconsider renewing your membership. If repairing these bonds requires outside assistance consider contacting a Family Therapist and seeking help. And if you have a family, to call your own, hang on and embrace it, enjoy it, warts and all; in this life, today, while you can.
Families will take your intentional effort, courage, and patience this Holiday Season but after all that, you just may find that the love you give to your family, is exactly the gift you need this year.