i couldn’t help but notice that whenever i am out shopping, especially in home decor stores, there are these little plaques everywhere talking about what family is or the importance of family. here are a few quotes i have seen on said plaques (and all over pinterest):
“family – where life begins and love never ends no matter what”
“your family is the best team you could ever have.”
“family – a little bit of crazy, a little bit of loud, a whole lot of love.”
“family is a gift that lasts forever.”
“the family is god’s greatest masterpiece.”
these sayings plastered over plaques have always rubbed me the wrong way. i could never quite pinpoint why. i knew there was something that just didn’t seem authentic to me about these quotes. i wondered who came up with these sayings and more importantly, what kind of picture perfect family had they come from for this to be their view of family. then yesterday, anthony (one of my dear friends) posted this quote about family. and instead of the focus being all about family through rose colored lenses, it was about all of the things family does not mean.
“family does not mean: keeping secrets, walking on eggshells, lying about who i am to keep the peace, pretending others are healthy when they are not, tip toeing around the truth, attending holidays that derail my healing process, defending poor choices, engaging in toxic behavior, remaining loyal to old patterns that no longer align with my growth, assuming care taking responsibilities that are not mine to carry.”
when i reposted this, the number of people that slid into my dms on instagram was in the double digits – partly because it hit home for so many of them but partly because this is the shit not enough people seem to address.
if i think about my own family, at one point or another, every single example of what family does not mean has been done. the older i get and the more i work on myself, the more that those things become unbearable for me. and when i say that, i don’t just mean in my relationships with them but in their relationships with me.
there were a few that really jumped out at me for my own family:
- walking on eggshells – we all have that one family member that is a ticking time bomb and as a result, so many of us walk around on eggshells in an effort to not upset them or derail their day, even if that means ignoring our own feelings or emotions. this is something i no longer do and the outcome has been interesting to say the least.
- remaining loyal to old patterns that no longer align with my growth – just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean it is the right way to go about things. a lot of family trauma is generational – maybe it was standard for your grandmother to call your father out of his name and now he thinks nothing of calling you and your siblings out of your name. that is not okay. what is okay is vocalizing that that shit no longer works for you.
- assuming care taking responsibilities that are not mine to carry – i think this is common for a lot of first born children but we end up being care takers and mediators for the family. but here’s the thing – if i wanted to consistently take care of something or someone, i would adopt a dog or birth a child. i have not done either because i am not in a space in my life where i want to do more than take care of me, especially when having a full time career that is centered around helping others. i used to feel guilty about not wanting to carry other people’s responsibilities – it has been incredibly freeing to reframe said thinking.
- pretending others are healthy when they are not – if you guys know me, you know i would literally take a bullet for my little big brother, pooh bear. last spring, before he was leaving to return to college, he had a heart to heart with me about my weight. i have always been a big girl – even when doing sports and dance at an outside studio in high school, i cannot recall ever shopping in a section not suited for plus sized girls. now, my brother plays football at his college and knows it is literally his job to stay fit (as they are paying for his education). while he knows i do not eat like trash (fast food is infrequent, i stopped drinking sugary coffee drinks daily and eat red meat only 1-2 times per week), he knew my lifestyle was sedentary and that i was drinking alcohol on more just than the weekends. he told me that he wanted me to lose weight because he wanted us to grow old together and see each other have kids and grandkids. i nearly cried when he left my apartment – not because he told me about myself but because he was coming from a place of both fear and love. his fear was that i would die early and miss out on some amazing memories. he loves me so much that he built up the courage to tell me. in late june of last year, i started tracking everything i consumed, especially alcohol consumption in addition to tracking physical activity. i am still a big girl but feel better and sleep more soundly now that 50+ pounds are gone. i plan on sitting down this june at the year mark to review this past year and figure out what to modify to try and match the same amount lost during year one. pooh bear holding me accountable is what family should be about.
did any of the pieces of what family does not mean strike a chord with you? if so, what were they?
11 thoughts on “thought of the week: family does not mean…”
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I loved your blog for its honesty and candidness.
The “eggshells” reference really hit home. I had written a blog post just on that topic and wanted to link other info on the subject. Your blog was one of the first links that popped up. I clicked on it and really liked what you had to say on the subject and so, your link is now part of my blog.
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i really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this post. it seemed to have information that resonated for a lot of people. i try to just say things from the heart, even if it is a bit uncomfortable.
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Everything resonates with me about this! While I love my siblings very much, sometimes they are a little hard to take, especially when politics are involved. This is when I feel I’m lying about myself to keep the peace. I definitely have been walking on eggshells lately. In my older age I realize there are no perfect families and the best thing to do is set boundaries, and distance myself when things get to be too much. Thank you for a great article.
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liz, thank you so much for sharing with me. i am glad to hear that it resonated with you and hope the boundaries you are setting are being respected. 💜
I agree with all of this. I have had to set boundaries with a son who was and is tearing apart our family. I am raising his teenage daughter because she can no longer put up with his narcissistic tendencies and has run away from home and become suicidal.
My only question is about the last bullet…assuming responsibilities that are not yours…
Taking on my grandaughter could be considered not my responsibility…yet I gladly do it and she is doing well. But we have no contact with her father.
I also take care of my 91 yo mother who needs a lot of care. I gladly do it as well. Somethings are done because they are family. My mother appreciates that I have not shipped her off to a nursing home to die.
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i am sorry to hear about your son and am relieved your granddaughter has you in her corner. when it comes to assuming responsibilities, it sounds like you are taking care of your mother and granddaughter because they are deserving, not simply out of sheer obligation. that is what makes you an even more loving person.