Monday, May 16, 2011

Family Matters (Virtual Coffee {10})

Family has been on my mind a lot lately.
I did a google search on “immediate family” right before I started writing cause I wasn’t sure if it included just my husband and children or also my parents and siblings and I was astonished to find out that immediate family includes my husband, children, grand children, parents and siblings (whole, half or step – of which I now seem to have at least one per category) as well as my in laws (mother, father, brother, sister as well as possible future son and daughter); I guess I was just being narrow minded when I thought immediate was actually, well, immediate.
It puts a whole extra layer of thought and consequence to the whole “you’re not just marrying the man, but his whole family too” concept. Although, bizarrely, first degree relatives are just spouse, children, parents and siblings, I would’ve thought aunts, uncles and cousins would’ve fit right in there.

Anyway, I’ve been giving family a lot of thought. My family is all over the place. I rarely see my mother and brother as they’re in the US (lucky bastards!), my grandma’s in Brazil, my half-siblings are all in Italy but nowhere near us, so I practically never see them, this makes me feel a little isolated sometimes as well as a possibly over-protective of my little family unit (husband and kids).
I know, this is starting to read a bit like a demented census, brother, sister, husband, children blah, blah, blah…

On the other hand, I seem to be constantly surrounded by the husband’s family. They’re all over the place too, and yet they always just seem to be here. It’s a little twilight zone-ish. I’m not complaining or anything, I get along with my whole extended (or should I say immediate?) in-law family and I’m happy to be quite close to most of them but we’re, well, different.  Of course, most of the time different is good, it helps define boundaries and roles but other times it’s just hard and tiring and exasperating to have to wrap my mind around another family dynamic.
Each family has it’s own dynamic; it’s own very specific and very personal patterns of interaction. It’s like a dance, where each member knows his own complicated steps and it usually comes together harmoniously, or discordantly, but it makes its own particular kind of sense.

Family matters are a bit tense right now, nothing major, and certainly nothing regarding the husband or I (or our children), but it makes for a lot of drama. Mostly unwanted drama on our part, as we’re really trying to concentrate on the husband’s recovery and not things that really are no concern of ours. And yet… and yet… we always seem to get sucked in, despite our best intentions, and it’s unsettling and it’s unhealthy I find. I’m not going to talk about it, it’s not my business to share, plus right now I’m more interested in the whole philosophical aspect that in the actual reality of it all.

There’s a lot less drama on my side of the family, there are also many more miles. Does physical distance play a role in our involvement, or is it the ever-elusive family dynamic that differs? And how, does one change it were one to want to (and I want to)?
Ideally, I would like to crank up the interest, the closeness and the intimacy with my side of the family, just as I would proportionally tone down the theatrics, recriminations, side-takings and phone calls on the other side of the family. Is a happy medium possible or would it require too drastic a change in the family dynamic? A change that inevitably would call for too many adjustments on the part of individuals who, more than likely, are happy, or used to, or set in their ways and unwilling and uninterested in changing, because, after all, why would they want to change if I’m the only one perceiving a problem. Because that’s the thing about family dynamics, they are set in place and perpetrated by individuals in a family and that’s what works for them, even if it doesn’t seem to work or even if it doesn’t fully work for all family members.

So the husband and I find ourselves in a strange limbo, we truly come from different worlds, with different experiences, with different, ingrained dynamics that don’t completely fit us anymore and we have to find a way, a path, that works for us, for our family (and here I’m only included the husband, children and myself). We have to create and perpetrate our own family dynamic, one that works for us and that ideally takes the good from the examples we were given and removes the bad.

I know, I’ve been rambling on forever and really this is much more of a discussion for whiskey than coffee, but you see, I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately and all this writing, all these words, really help me work out the jumbled stuff in my head. It’s important to me to do this, it’s important to hear your opinions, it’s important to talk about this, though no real answers are (or indeed can be) forthcoming, because at the end of the day family matters doesn’t it?

Now, go say hi to our hostess Amy who's totally "in the Spring of things"!


  1. We have such similar situations you and I. Our family spread over countries and continents. Husbands' family pretty close and presente. Differences. Desire to have our family of origin closer, especially now that children are in the picture. Step this and step that, half this and that. I am sure miles make a difference, less drama, but we have intricate family dynamics too, let's face it. And talking about our own little family units, we have started the complicated dance, to which only we know the rhythm too. I see it when I visit you and you see it with us, I am sure. So one day, a daughter or son in law of ours may be blogging about us! Aaaah, the circle of life. Pass the whiskey.

  2. I am belly up to bar, myself, and can so relate to the distance I feel from my own family. My husband's family is close enough to be far away as we are not in immediate vicinity. But as for my own, parents, two brothers and in-laws, neices and nefew added to 18 first cousins and now their children add over 20 great-grand kids to my receintly decised maternal grandmother. Having explained my background... I speak weekly with my parents and no more than three times a year with my brothers. They don't call me, maybe b/c they don't have the time change figured out and I call when I have had enough of not being in touch. We are incredibly close when we are toghether, but when I return to Italy the communication goes on hold until the next trip home. It has been like this for 13 years now so I am not sure when we are going to change the habbit??! hugs, amy

  3. Ah family all over the world, all expecting a visit. Should you get a holiday, you should welcome the opportunity to shove your whole family into one guest room and make do with their weird foods, smelly cats and share a bathroom with a smile. Hear ya! x

  4. family matters - a lot!! where would we be without them - literally??

  5. Hi there Yarissima,

    I'm loving this post because somehow, despite the miles and despite the very personal and intense course you all are navigating (through Ale's illness and its intimate intricacies) it seems many of us who grew up in families of mixed nationalities and heritage and culture, then went on to marry someone from a vastly different background, often feel this same disconnect -- from the impression of a close and tight-knit family to the reality of a largely spread, loosely connected brood one rarely relates to anymore.
    I would also bring to the table the fact that growing up in Texas but also in an international environment, leaves one with that double-sided and often divergent imprint of all American go-getterism and independence paired with a closer, more Latin family life.
    Family dynamics are a tight-rope walk no matter how you slice it, but do soldier on -- we're here in spirit.
    Cheers, Alcira

  6. @Nuts about food Good Lord, I hadn't thought of that! Well, by the time our kids are grown and married something new other than blogging will have come up... I hope!

  7. @Anonymous Amy, brothers aren't generally known to be great at communication especially via phone, I would say that the important thing is that y'all are really close when you do manage to see each other!

  8. @I'm So Fancy Fancy, I simply cannot believe that you, of all people would share a bathroom!!

  9. I have a feeling that being closer would up the family drama. I think it's just in human nature that the more we are in each other's pockets, the more drama inevitably ensues. I think the real issue is not necessarily drama or no-drama, but rather can we separate the love from the drama and know that even when there is drama, there is also incredible love?

  10. Hi, I've visited your site a few times but I just had to leave a comment. Sometimes it's reassuring when I read about someone being so honest about family situations. Mine sounds very similar to yours, and especially the desire in my own immediate (family of 3) to discard the disfunction of the inlaws and just work on our own family values. More power to you!!

  11. YES! I totally hear you. I have had so many of my family issues weighing so heavy on my heart that it feels like it just aches sometimes. It has nothing to do with me, nor can I do anything about it since my family lives across the country... but it still really feels like it weighs me down. I can't help it though, they are family. You celebrate together and ache together.

  12. Ti dico solo che da quando sono uscita da casa di mio padre il nostro rapporto e' notevolmente migliorato, per poi peggiorare immediatamente in situazioni di convivenza breve tipo in vacanza....baci Cla

  13. Hi, I've visited your site a few times but I just had to leave a comment. Sometimes it's reassuring when I read about someone being so honest about family situations. Mine sounds very similar to yours, and especially the desire in my own immediate (family of 3) to discard the disfunction of the inlaws and just work on our own family values. More power to you!!