Dexter

Was your family "weird" too?

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A few years back, I was talking to a casual friend and during our conversation I commented that I have a "weird" family. She rolled her eyes and said that everybody has a weird family. I told her that I didn't think she understood what I was talking about and recounted a story from a few months prior where my aunt who lived in Illinois had a father-in-law who passed away but she wasn't going to be able to make it to the funeral in Missouri without help. So my family who lives in Indiana pulled out our 15-passenger van, gathered some other extended family and made a day of it. We traveled from Indiana to just across the Illinois state line to pick up my aunt and grandmother, then cut south for Missouri. It ended up being a 14-hour day. But by the time we were dropping off my aunt and grandmother, we were still laughing, smiling, telling jokes and enjoying each other's company. At no point in all those hours, cooped up in a 15-passenger van did anyone lose temper, throw accusations or get angry. And this was very normal for my family. My friend was shocked and replied that that is very weird.  

 

I have often wondered why my family got along so well when I so often heard stories of other people's nuclear families nearly jumping across tables at each other during even the most simple of gatherings. Like they couldn't keep their animus to themselves for just a few hours. And often friends commented they liked our family gatherings because they were so stress free. I took this as a matter of pride but the inquisitive part of my mind also tried to solve why this was. The "correct" answer I was often given is because we were a godly family and that faith in god came out in various blessings like having a family unit so cohesive that (with only one exception) even our in-laws sometimes take their family vacations with us. 

 

But this reasoning was never an adequate explanation for me. There were plenty of families in the church and the default norm for many of them was tense yet obligatory family gatherings where someone's unresolved anger at another was going to come out and sour everyone's turkey. Were we just better? Well, ok, I am not totally devoid of arrogance, I did privately feel we were better than most. ((I'm getting better about that, I promise.)) Even still, I had a mind that grasped statistics well enough to know that we shouldn't have been THAT much of an outlier. So I accepted the god's blessing explanation because it was the best, albeit imperfect, explanation I had.

 

At least until I started losing god. Now, looking back at it, I think I actually do have a better model and explanation for this. It, ironically, IS a blessing of "god." Not that god willed it as there is no will driving it rather than our own, but rather, I think that in the population statistics of my family, we had another social factor at play. Hegemony. Even within Bible-Believing families, there are differing interpretations and schisms from one generation to the next. But ours was not so. It was almost as though we had reached this critical-mass of like-mindedness that the social pressures to believe differently were less desirable than conformity. But not in a punitive sense, rather, in a positively reinforced sense. Who wants to sulk outside of a genuinely fun party when there is literally no social pressure to do so and in fact people go out of their way to include you in their conversations and games? And I think we always had a sub-conscious and unspoken rule, uncomfortable truth stays at home. 

 

So how "weird" was your family?

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Mine was similar to yours, but not religious at all. My sister married a counselor who was deeply impressed with how we would get together and talk through issues instead of blowing up (not that this never happened). He said that was very unusual in his experience. It could not be attributed to faith, but more because it made sense to do it this way.

 

Then again, I recall as a child that one brother was a royal pain because that was his way to feel significant. He was like a school bully, but to me. That never made sense to me, and he only stopped once I turned 18, and then it was like a switch he turned off. He didn't do so well as a dad or husband, taking on some extreme political views and alienating his own kids and wife. The rest of us did ok. Sometimes I feel like the "old soul" of the family, really analyzing these things and moderating when siblings have a tiff.

 

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We were fair-to-middlin' weird, I guess. We got together with my mother's family and had great fun without arguing. And there were differences in religion. My mom was Church of Christ, one of her sisters was Episcopalian (she married a nominal Muslim from Turkey, who was never actually very religious about it), two others were Spiritualists / "New Age" / occultists, and another was technically a COC'er, but rarely / never actually attended church.  We could have a good time together eating, laughing, exchanging stories, etc. We didn't have the energy to argue!

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My family always got along. I didn't realize until I was an adult how many dysfunctional families there were in our denomination, because everyone put on a happy face in public. But our family really did get along just fine!

 

My wife's family did, too. The weird thing to me is that people think there's something wrong with families that don't fight. Why the hell should someone's dysfunctional family be held up as the way people ought to be?

 

My own family has become a bit dysfunctional in the last few years, though. My children's generation doesn't avoid drama like my generation and my parents' did. And my wife has been responsible for quite a bit of the drama, having never gotten over losing her babies to marriage. (Actually, she created some really big drama between me and her a number of times, but not in front of the kids.) I'm pretty sad about it because I feel like I'm in the middle. She tries to recruit me into having my feelings hurt when hers are hurt, even when I think it's unreasonable. I've gone to bat for her a couple of times and always regret it.

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Mine were total complete misfits.

They were LDS but did not have magic underwear. 

 

I know. I know.

It's OK. 

Over the years I've gotten over the bullying from the other little LDS cretins and can now look people in the eye.

 

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My family was ruled by my father. Unless my mom got good and angry,then we all stayed out of  her way. But family events were usually mostly drama free or drama lite. I remember big meals around the table and football games and a lot of laughter. 

Nowadays,things are a little more tense with my brother and I ex-C and politely refusing to talk about god or  religion or politics with them. But we still have a good time spending a few hours together and sharing a big meal. 

 

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My family is like yours - we’re weirdly happy and cohesive.  My brothers and I were raised by a mainline denominational minister and SAHM wife.  I and one of my brothers went evangelical during college and the other avoided religion until he divorced his first wife and married a nominal catholic.  Now they go to the same kind of church we grew up in (but both their kids were baptized catholic, lol!).  My evangelical brother is the only one still really religious, including homeschooling all four of his kids, but he never pushes his religion on anyone.

 

I think there are two things that make us all get along so well, and it’s how my husband and I run our family as well - respect and lots of humor.  We treat each other as adults and don’t try to control or manipulate each other.  Our parents raised us to be confident, self-sufficient independent people and we have gravitated to spouses of the same mold.  On top of that is a heavy sprinkling of humor.  We spend most of our time laughing till we cry as my dad had a great sense of humor and taught us to see the funny in most things (though he was actually clinically depressed but undiagnosed until his last years).  My husband and I often wonder to each other why we get along so well and the only things we can come up with are respect and humor.

 

 

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