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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » When your family looks different

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Author Topic: When your family looks different
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I just sent my best friend and her son back to Minnesota this morning after a week-long visit, something that always breaks my heart. Since I'm still all sniffly about it right now, I figured I'd talk about it with you.

They're two of the most core people of who I know as my family: my best friend feels like my soul sister (even though we are radically different in a lot of ways), her little boy is my favorite kid in the world, though I've loved and liked a lot of children in my life. There's the two of them, my current partner, an ex-partner, two of my other closest friends and my biological father. When I put that whole group together, that's my primary family, the people and group who feel like my family, who feel like home to me and my heart.

I never really had any expectation of my family being either only -- and in some cases, at all -- the people to whom I'm actually related, nor being only about or even centered around a romantic partnership, a boy-girl thing or a marriage.

I didn't grow up that way or with that kind of ideal. I came of age queer, I left unhealthy family members/structures I was actually related to very early (and while I'm still in relationship with some of them, they don't really feel like family), I didn't intend to reproduce with my own body (and know now at the age I'm at that I won't), and my politics and my life experiences are and have simply been such that a very American, hetero, 20th/21st century image of family was a picture that didn't ever seem or feel like it'd be a fit.

So, it's strange to me that sometimes I still find myself surprised this is what my family looks like, and also a little disappointed that it took me longer to realize and claim who my family was than I'd like, particularly per making a move a handful of years back that put me so far away from a few of the people I love the most.

That said, does your family look different from either the one you were raised with, the one you expected, or the families you tend to see shown as "family" to the world?

Secondarily, how impacted do you think any of us by learned ideals or expectations of family, whether they feel like they fit or they feel like they don't?

[ 12-29-2010, 11:05 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 25425

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I'll chime in! [Smile]

I grew up in what, to the outside, always looked like a picture-perfect family. My parents are still together, most of my relatives mostly get along, and there were never any big fights or issues.

But from inside, it was a different story. My extended family on both sides is very conservative and religious, and from the time I was around 13 years old, I have felt more and more rejected by them. I rarely see these relatives now, and when I do, things are cordial but cold.

Additionally, my relationship with my parents was very difficult for me growing up. My father lived abroad for the first ten years of my life, so it took us a long time to really form a relationship with each other, and we've only recently started to really earnestly work on connecting. And my mother has had a hard time accepting and understanding who I am - I'm an atheist and she's a catholic, I'm queer and she's very, very straight, etc.

As a result, the people I am related to by blood are not the people that I consider family (though I now have a much better relationship with my parents and my younger brother, and they are incredibly important to me). Too, because of the convictions I hold, I am likely not going to get married, and I am not going to have children. This means that I am also not going to be part of a "traditional" family of my own.

Instead, I have a chosen family that consists of friends I love and who are very important to me. This family consists of a really close friend of mine who I consider my little sister, a group of three friends here at school that I've known since I moved here five years ago, a friend of mine from high school who's been with me through everything for the past 11 years, and a former teacher who has become a surrogate father to me.

I am very comfortable with this chosen family and I have no desire to trade it in for a more "traditional" family. Even if I do enter a long-term, exclusive relationship at some point, it's never going to look like a nuclear family unit, or make these friends any less important to me.

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Johanna
Scarleteen Volunteer

"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Kachina
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I am not close to anyone blood related except my dad. My mother is very mentally-ill and abusive, I love my brother but he is so different from me and we are not close at all. He is hard to be around for very long for some reason. My extended family are all far away and were never very close to us, I see them about once a decade.

When I left home I knew I would have to create my own family, because I wanted to leave the abusive situation I was in. I even dropped friends I had made that were too much a recreation of my home life. I decided that even though my biological family was "unchosen" I was going to choose my REAL family and make a family for myself I never had as a child.

My current family consists of my current partner of 5 years, an ex-boyfriend who is now one of my best friends, a friend from my childhood and her children, a friend I met through her as an adult, my dad, and my partner's mother. My current partner was in my "family" of friends for 3 years before we dated.

My partner and I have also created our own version of family at home since we don't want kids. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats that we love very much.

Besides my family not being biological I really don't follow the "norm" in many ways, so I am used to being different. For example, I am always "myself" regardless of if it's considered a girl thing or a boy thing and don't follow gender rules and so many many ppl mistake me for a lesbian even though I am straight. I'd almost prefer to identify as queer because of all the dumb shit that seems to be attached to "straight" like the assumption that I must want kids and marriage and diamonds or that I should wear dresses and long hair.

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~Kat
Scarleteen Volunteer

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise. - Grace Hopper

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luanne
Activist
Member # 48638

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Can I reply to this?

All my life I've known my mom's family, and I've never ever been able to relate to them or felt comfortable around them. So when they visit I either stay in my room or stay quiet. This pains Mom. I think some people just don't gel, and I tried to tell Mom, and she told me her relatives were all nice people and I was just being snotty. They are nice, but I can't be myself around them. And it has nothing to do with religion or politics or anything- I just can't be my happy carefree self around them.

My father left before I was born, but we got back in touch recently, and I visited some of his side of the family. Those people and I were totally on the same wavelength. They had personal quirks just like mine and I feel a lot less isolated knowing that they get me.

It's obvious what happened. I have a clear case of nature > nurture. My mom and dad are so radically different that I don't know how they ever married at all. I lived with Mom but turned out just like Dad.

I live far away from Dad and I have a hard time finding confidantes at school, so I don't feel like I have a family at the moment. I wish I did. But I feel like it's just temporary and it will only be a few years before I meet a man I can love who loves me back.

A lot of people on these boards are fighting for the right to define "family" in a non-traditional way. I like that, but when I picture what I want 10 years down the road, it's a nice normal house in the suburbs with a nice husband that I love and two or three lovable children, and I'm a stay-at-home mom who makes meals and love well. It's like the song "Somewhere That's Green" from the movie Little Shop of Horrors.

And it couldn't be more traditional.
But it hasn't happened yet.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I don't see why anyone can't reply to this. [Smile]

But given your answer, I do wonder if it might make sense to explore this question: "Secondarily, how impacted do you think any of us by learned ideals or expectations of family, whether they feel like they fit or they feel like they don't?"

That isn't to say what you're envisioning can't happen or isn't okay, though at the same time, there's a reason that song was kind of about this in that musical, because it was that character's fantasy, something that's pretty unusual (or pretty unusual to be how people imagine it is), even though it's so often presented as an ideal. I'd say it's especially unusual in our current -- as in, past couple decades -- economy! [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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luanne
Activist
Member # 48638

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Society's expectation of family seems very tidy and organized, meaning everything is in its rightful place, meaning nobody gets left out of place. It fills in all the gaps.

There was no father figure for me- but my children would have one. The house I grew up in is dilapidated, dark, and messy- but mine would be orderly and clean. There was never a "man of the house" when I was a kid- but my husband would stick around until death do us part. And my children would have some intellectual ground with their Mom and Dad, since Mom and Dad have a lot in common themselves. In my dreams, my future family actually celebrates holidays and eats together at dinner time.

The traditional family life had everything I was missing. It just seemed so happy and right. To me. And I feel like my marriage will last forever and all of my dreams will come true. Call it optimism. [Smile]

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luanne
Activist
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Oh- I forgot to actually answer the question!

Know the expression "to come out of the closet"? Wellll, the closet wouldn't exist without society's concept of the ideal family. The learned expectation of family encouraged me because I sort of felt like I was doing something right. So I can see it working the opposite way, too, for people who have a partner of the same sex who might feel like they're doing something wrong. It's always difficult in some degree to break tradition. And it can be satisfying to carry out tradition.

Or tradition can have the opposite effect, especially if someone is fired up and wants to be rebellious. In that case, they might break with the ideal just because it's there. But I don't know if that applies to something as central as family- I mean, if I wanted to offend my mom by pretending to be queer, I wouldn't build my future entire family around a queer relationship, because it would go against my instinct.

None of this content is groundbreaking.

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♥♥♥

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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quote:
The traditional family life had everything I was missing. It just seemed so happy and right.
My sense is it seems that way to a lot of people, which is why it's the ideal of a lot of people. However, I'd not say what you're describing is the reality of a lot of people, especially for a whole lifetime or a whole family cycle, and especially globally. Life just doesn't tend to be that orderly, without upset and idealized.

I'm not meaning to quash your dreams or anything here, and by all means, if this is something you want to pursue and go after, I see no reason not to go after it with gusto.

But I also think there's something to really recognizing and acknowledging the families we HAVE, however they look, rather than the families we dream about or idealize. For instance, I don't know that I ever had any kind of family ideal -- or not ideal, for that matter, other than not being in abuse and around people who couldn't stand me -- but I know I probably also didn't visualize what I've wound up with, and so, wouldn't have known or had any idea how special and cool it could be.

So, I'd be inclined to kind of try and bring this back to where it started and maybe invite you to talk about who your family is NOW -- which may or may not have anything to do with your parents and their family -- rather than who they might be later. [Smile]

[ 12-29-2010, 10:39 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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luanne
Activist
Member # 48638

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Got misled by the phrase "your vision of your family."

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♥♥♥

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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My bad on the unclear! Editing now.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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kimchikid
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Member # 51603

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my parents are white. i'm korean, adopted- so i NEVER looked like any of my family members anyways. i have a sister who is the biological daughter and an adopted black brother. parents divorced when i was 16. mother left the family for another woman. my dad is the one that ended up having custody of us kids. despite whatever hardships my family went thru, the family that i grew up with and that raised me as a child i regard as the same family i have now and will always be...

never met my biological parents. but if i did, i prolly would regard them as my family members too. they are the ones i am related to. perhaps that emotional ties isnt there, but cultural ties bind too. cant forget about my korean roots, culture, language. all parts of me that stems from the family members that created me as well.

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ghetto supastar-- that is what i am

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