Family is both a blessing and a curse. Those who have family often wish they don’t, and those who have no known family relations wish they do.

I met a woman a number of years ago, she was slightly past middle age and her 3 children were all grown. She once confided to me that her first born, a boy, distanced himself from her as a child. Much as she tried to create a bond between mother and son, she couldn’t seem to penetrate the wall he had built between them. There was no confrontation, no issues to cause a rift. The boy simply had no connection to his family, and no regrets about it. This didn’t stop with her, in fact, the child seemed to lack any interest in the whole family, mother, father, and 2 younger siblings.

She said as soon as he was of age he left home never looking back. He has since moved to another country, married, and has 2 children of his own yet still lacks interest in his original family. His younger 2 siblings seem ‘normal’, close to each other and the parents. I was startled by her lack of emotion when she spoke of this estranged son and she quickly explained that over the years and despite all efforts to forge a relationship with him, she and her husband finally had to accept that he wanted no part of the family that had been so much a part of his early life. She didn’t understand it, but had no choice. He was lost to her.

In another scenario, there is a family with 6 children, 3 boys, 3 girls, all adults now, and one of the eldest sons has estranged himself from family. Again, there was no animosity, no confrontation or episodes to facilitate his departure, he simply had no interest. It’s almost as though he would’ve preferred to be an only child. All 6 siblings live within a short drive of each other and all get along. They gather for each holiday and acknowledge each others milestones, all except this one brother. He acknowledges nothing, declines all invitations – he wants no part of ‘family’.

A female friend has one sister. Over 25 years ago they had a disagreement over family assets (doesn’t it always come back to money?) and a life long grudge was formed. Both sisters have married and have families of their own but have had no contact since. They live in the same city but their children have never met their own cousins. How fair is it to deny your children their family? And who are you to make that choice for them? How healthy is it to foster anger and resentment, not to mention forcing your bitterness and venom on the next generation? Who wins here?

What is it that makes one turn away from family?  Now granted, you can’t ‘pick’ your family, so you may not have much in common. In fact, you may not even like your family much, but there is a blood connection that cannot be denied…. or maybe it can. It just seems so sad.

My family is not large, I have 2 older siblings (a sister and a brother) and we do not live nearby but we maintain contact. Throughout our adult years life took us in different directions. We had families, careers and friends that were not a part of each others lives, and we could go long periods without seeing each other, but we never lost the ‘family’ connection. Special occasions brought us together as did the hard times, family loss, and hardship. Being together wasn’t always easy. We didn’t always see eye to eye. In fact, we often disagreed on life choices made but we respected each others right to make their own choices, and we supported them because they are family.

Friends can often become family. There appears to be much in common with them, they offer support when needed, and pass no judgement. There is no familial obligation either way so severing the ties when/if the friendship takes a bad turn is easier but rare, because friendships are made by choice, not by birth, so we work a little harder to keep them. It’s too easy to take family for granted.

Family can be hugely influential in your life (if you allow it) or they can be distant and disinterested. Just how influential is up to you. Personally, I’ve always maintained the people in our lives are there for a reason; every encounter offers a new opportunity to learn something, and life is all about learning and growing.

I can’t say I’m a fan of every relative I have, and I may not agree with how they live, what they say or do, or how they view me, but I appreciate that they are in my life and make the effort to have an impact on me. Those walking this path with me, my family and my friends, are a gift and I, for one, am grateful for every lesson.

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One thought on “The family dynamic

  1. Families as microcosms of society are endlessly fascinating! Observing them is practically my hobby. (: That said, I’m all for those that want to abandon ship. Such a big subject. And so beautifully written about here.


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