Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Family. Isn't it about...circles?

As a married man, I’ve become an expert in all things relationship. I’ve always been quite expert in things of this nature, but the marriage certificate seems to have authenticated my previous claims. Fear and tremble at the presence of…
Dr. Logan Roberts, Family and Relationship Expert
The Doctor is in.
Today’s discussion is concerning family relationships. The recent hallmark event in my life has brought this to the forefront of my mind, the culmination of these thoughts occurring over Thanksgiving of 2005 upon a visit to my home in Frannie, Wyoming, in which I was able to see how time changes familial relationships.
Only after time passes it becomes painfully apparent families are an evolving, growing, and changing entity, morphing from what they used to be into what they are becoming. As a result of this, many people are living in a dimension not totally in sync with reality.
For the first 18 years or so of a person’s life, a family is one way and everyone has a role to fill and everyone fills their role. Terms like ‘the older kids’ and ‘the younger kids’ denote these roles and up until individuals start leaving the home, these roles are filled without question. It is just the way it is.
As family members start leaving home roles change. Different individuals are asked to fill vacated familial roles based on need; those that have left became part of additional, extra-familial relationship circles. In these new circles – either changed familial or the new extra-familial circle – individuals have different responsibilities, develop and display different characteristics then previous and as such evolve as people. This evolution can be positive or negative.
Fast forward 5-10 years since the initial breaking from caste roles, each person in the family has new characteristics, developed new strengths and styles totally their own based on these new and varied relationship circles. These new character traits have been born of experience, responsibility, mistakes and triumphs; many taking place while removed from the original family circle; those not present during these transformations cannot fully and do not really understand a change has transpired. It is hard to grasp why someone they ‘know’ based on past experiences with this person is ‘suddenly’ different than what they remember.
‘The older kids’ and ‘the younger kids’ are now all “the older kids’; they are attending college, graduating from college, married, marrying, working, etc… Any left at home are filling different roles in the household they previous weren’t required to fill.
Due to this transition, reunions can be bittersweet. It’s wonderful to be with and interact with everyone; however, during interactions in this original relationship circle, people might not see each other for whom and what they are. Rather, they try to view them in roles they ‘should’ fill based on a static perception of several years ago; this may cause conflict and hurt feelings. Perhaps an example:
In my family, I have always been the oldest and as such for the first 18 years of my life was the biggest, strongest, most experienced and smartest (not IQ wise per se, but due to my age and life experiences as compared to my younger, less experienced siblings). I was usually in charge simply because of my age.
Now, seven or so years later I am still the oldest and best looking (ha ha ha), but not the strongest (Nathan, Ben and Forrest), most experienced (I’m graduated and in the workforce; Nathan’s been married 1 ½ years; Ben is the most traveled, Forrest is in Brazil, Rachell’s a teenage girl – yikes; Russell simply becoming the man), and smartest (grades and ACT scores are sufficient in proving this point). All my brothers have served in leadership positions in works, organizations and church; all have dated and had relationships; all have experiences changing and molding them into their own person.
Act like all my siblings weren’t as tough, as smart, as experienced or as responsible as I am because growing up they weren’t, I’d be doing them a vast injustice and starting a serious conflict. Conversely, if a younger sibling tried to get out of responsibility because of their birth order, they would be doing themselves and the family an injustice by not contributing as they should/could.
In summations, people change and as such don’t fit the positions family members – who have been closest to them – think they should. This does one of two things, depending on our approach: 1) Create frustration, conflict and even anger if parties are not willing to adapt. 2) Create closer bonds by accepting growth and acknowledging shortcomings.
An interesting thing is one usually facilitates the other. The key is getting through Pt 1 to enjoy Pt 2
That’s the relationship thought with Dr. Logan, Family and Relationship Expert.
The Doctor is out.