Thursday, March 7, 2013

Strengthening the Familial Bond

I put my family first, and am thankful for all that they have done for me to be where I am today, and who I am today.  Without them, my journey would have been much tougher, and this is for certain.  However, this was not always the case.

When I was younger, I found myself often getting into trouble, and hanging out with the "cool" kids because I thought they were my friends.  I lieu of familial obligations or events, I would create excuses so that I could go party or look for ways to make my mother crazy...crazier..

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It took me many years to find out that friends are temporary, and ever-changing, for better or for worse.  Only a few die-hard friends will stick with you through thick and thin, give you the respect that you give to them, and those friends become extended members of your family (or so I hope).

Family, on the other hand, no matter how distant they become through the separating ways of life, will always be there when you truly need them.  Obviously this is a generalized statement, and there is always an outlier, but in most cases, a little dysfunction (and let's be honest, we all have dysfunction in our family unit - we are human!) will not stand in the way of love and support.

Here's the thing though, you do not have to grow distant from your family.  Say it out loud, "I DO NOT HAVE TO GROW DISTANT FROM MY FAMILY!"  We only become as estranged as we allow ourselves to, and I'm just as guilty as the next person.  We tend to think that the holidays are simply enough to keep us relevant in each other's lives.  It doesn't have to be this way!  I have seen and felt the benefits of a strong family bond, and they are incredible!

I am working on becoming a better son, grandson, nephew, cousin and whatever other roles that I may have to fit into, as you should too!  We can't live forever, and you never know when your journey will come to an end.  You don't want to live a life of "what ifs" and "I should haves".

Here are 3 considerations that may help you to develop a stronger familial bond:

  1. Make a conscious effort:  First things first, it will never happen if you don't make it happen.  Developing relationships are not magical; they don't appear out of thin air.  You must work at it, as with any relationship, connection or essentially everything worth having in life.  It does not take a great deal of effort though, just a phone-call, or email, or even a simple text message.  Bottom line - REACH OUT!  Trust me on this, one day you will be happy you did.  The great thing about family is that they don't usually expect to gain anything from you, whereas fake friends do.  Your family just wants to know that you are doing well, and that you care enough to see how they are doing also.  Be the "bigger person" (the person who procrastinates the least) and make the effort.
  2. Accept them for who they are:  So your uncle has a drinking problem, or your aunt is cat-hoarder, or your grandfather gambled away his life-savings...SO WHAT!  Take a look in the mirror, and see if you see perfection looking back at you.  If so, I don't know how you stumbled upon my blog, but chances are you're lying to yourself.  Once you've acknowledged that people are not perfect, and we all have flaws (that includes you), it might make your grudges and resentments seem a little more petty.  Rather than always trying to point out the negatives in your family and distancing yourself, try accepting their flaws and offering ways that you can be part of their recovery.  Maybe they don't need recovery.  Maybe they are so set in their ways that only trying to change them will create anger and strife.  So be it!  Are they loving towards you?  Do they do all that they can to the best of their current ability to make sure that you live a happy and fulfilling life?  If your answers to those two questions were "yes", then maybe you should get over what's eating you up inside, let go of the anger, and do your best to make sure that they have a happy and fulfilling life to the best of your ability.  As my wife always says, "live and let live".  Some people don't want change, they simply want love and acceptance.  
  3. Ask them about their history:  We often don't realize that within our own family, there is a goldmine of wisdom, knowledge and entertainment.  Have you ever sat with your grandfather at dinner and asked him about his childhood, or better yet, his 20's-40's?  I'm sure some of the stories he would tell you would blow you away!  You might even learn something.  Have you ever called your mom to ask her how hard it was to raise you when you were just a baby, and the sacrifices she had to make to prepare you for a good life?  You might shed a tear, and develop a new respect for the woman that birthed you.  Have you ever talked to your cousins and asked them what the craziest party they went to, or relationship they had was, and the reasons why?  You might spend hours laughing with them.  The point is, there's a chance you really have no clue what your family is about, and you won't know until you ask them.  
Don't spend your whole life searching for superficial friends.  Take advantage of the support system that helped you to become who you are today, and take a moment to thank them.  You only get one family, don't take them for granted.

+Wesley Claytor

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