“Oh dear God, my family.”
How many times has this or something like it been your description of your family? Dysfunctional. Confusing. Psychotic. Loud. Insane. Crazy. Someone once told me that Dr. Carl Whitaker, family counseling theorist, once said, “The craziest thing to do is be a part of a family.”
Well said, old guy.
Why are we so crazy? Perhaps it has something to do with being forced to live with certain people for the rest of your life. There is this strange thing that exists, a thing we can neither feel nor touch, that webs family members together no matter where they exist in the world. We cannot cut our ties with family, no matter how hard we try. Families consist of pesky little people who are always budding up in your business or psyche somehow, someway. They are the cause of so many headaches and problems. As any good therapist would put it, “Every problem is because of mom’s nagging or dad’s ignorance – which one do you want to blame today?”
Since we can’t shake them, we just have to learn to live with them in our lives. Some do this smoother than others but every family on earth is cluttered with disastrous parenting, annoying children, frustrating teenagers, and that crazy aunt or uncle that everyone suspects might be a “closet-crazy.” We’ve all got our less-than-pristine versions of ourselves stowed away in some embarrassing family story, a story sure to be retold at Christmas. Yet, year after year, we walk into the same trap: we go back to family! Are we crazy? What’s wrong with us!? Go back to family? – those people are nuts!
But there must be something that makes us want to go back. Perhaps the reason we love our family lies in these stories:
From PrettySmartBlog: “Last night I meant to post about the Dad and Daughter who sat at the bar in Starbucks. There was just something really… beautiful about it, as simple as it was. She was sipping cocoa and doing homework. He was drinking something, no doubt, stronger than cocoa and helping. She couldn’t have been more than 9 and they both smiled and laughed as they got through her work together.”
From blogger Jess Gardner on her blog, Diary of an Englishman: “This is Daymon [picture]. He is my little brother. And also a complete stud…He’s been doing cross country this year and with a new coach and a freshman that is nearly as fast as him, it has been quite the experience. He’s done brilliant though and today placed 13th at districts! Daymon, you’re just the coolest.”
From blogger Art Edison, blogger of Edison Leatherworks: “Sometime a few hours after Emily [my daughter] was born, I remember talking to my dad on the phone. The only description that I was able to give him after well over a day with no sleep was that she had 10 fingers and 10 toes. I’m sure that I also told him that she was beautiful.”
You see, within their description of family lies a moment of beauty and of pride. They see past the dysfunction within their family (and it is most surely there) and find a beautiful gem that they are proud of. They are proud of their daughter, doing homework in a Starbucks. They are proud of their brother for winning a race. They are proud of the 20 digits on their newborn’s appendages. They are proud of the beautiful things within their family. The dysfunction just doesn’t matter.
Dysfunction comes with the territory of being in a family. Being in a family does not mean we ever get to ask for no dysfunction. That’s just unrealistic! Sometimes, living cohesively means deliberately looking at the beautiful things in your family and being proud of those things rather than complaining about the dysfunction. If we mean to live cohesively as families, and if we mean to overcome the dysfunction that comes with being in a family, we must look at something other than dysfunction. The more dysfunction we look at, the more dysfunction we will get. The more we look at something to be proud of in our families, the more pride we will feel.
I’m proud of my family’s heritage. I’m proud of the value we place on working hard. I’m proud of the high commitment my family has for one another. Are we kind of a mess? Sure. But who isn’t?
What about you? What are you proud of?