Sunday, August 8, 2010

Family Roles

Having just spent a week in close camping quarters with my family, I realized something which provided some insight for me. When we are with our family as grown-up adults, it becomes very easy to slip back into the familiar roles we played as children. When we are with our parents, it becomes challenging to separate out the people we are now, as fully functioning adults in our own right, and instead we tend to visualize ourselves as children at various stages interacting with our parents and our siblings.

Perhaps this strange situation is what makes our adult family encounters stressful sometimes. When we go camping with friends, none of this baggage enters in, and we are simply separate family units going about our business in the great outdoors. There are no expectations on behaviour, or attitudes, or pecking orders. It is a group of equals, enjoying time spent together on our own terms.

These family roles are never discussed, or brought to the conscious mind, but they seem to happen imperceptibly as soon as families come together. Sibling rivalry reappears, and old family dynamics begin to surface, even though as adults living separately from each other, we have outgrown these things and no longer think about them on a daily basis.

I'm not sure how to alter these roles. Perhaps awareness is the first key to making a change. I want to be who I am now, at all times, as I've fought hard for the right to be myself. I don't want to fall prey to old feelings and resentments that are carryovers from childhood and have no place in my adult life, except when we are all together again. I need to continue to communicate as clearly as I can, even when it's not comfortable to do so. I don't want to pretend, for any reason, to be anyone other than who I am.

I am now conscious of this for my kids as well. My driving goal for them is to be fully themselves, at all times, without dividing their personalities for any reason. I want authenticity for them, and that means I must treat them with respect, even the parts of them that I don't like and would prefer to change.

As adults, I want them to be free with me, to not pretend anything in order to be accepted, but to communicate their desires and feelings with as much clarity as possible. In order for them to do this, I know I must always be open to what they have to say, and provide an environment of acceptance. We won't always agree on everything, and that is okay, and I must work hard not to punish them for any of their opposing ideas as a way to get them to do what I want them to do.

None of this is easy, as we all have our own agenda in relationships, but it is something for me to work toward. I'm going to visualize my kids as adults, somewhere in the forefront of my mind, as a goal to work toward. If I want them to be as true to themselves as possible, as kids and as adults, I plan to start now to embrace them as they are, and be real with them in the way we communicate. There will be many speedbumps and detours along the way, but having the goal is the important thing, and now I know what I'm working toward.


  1. Thanks for these thoughts. I'm disproportionately excited about the upcoming visit of my parents (the first in two years) and it's good to remember that along with the joy of being together will inevitably come the strains I have not experienced for a while! I also love your aim for your own children as it's one I want for mine too: that she know she is accepted as she is and can be herself. Grace is needed for this! :-)

  2. You are so right about grace being required! It seems so easy in my mind, to embrace my kids and my friends and my family members as they are, but so painful and difficult in reality. I hope you enjoy your visit with your parents, absorbing the wonderful things about your relationship, and trying to let the painful parts go.