It probably won’t surprise most of you that I was a MAJOR goody-two-shoes (too-shews?) growing up. I think I felt a lot of responsibility to being a “good” kid for my aunt and uncle, who welcomed me into their family out of the goodness (greatness) of their hearts. Sure, I did my fair share of back-talking and mouthing off, but that’s really about it. Okay, so maybe I told some fibs about whether or not I was going to the movies alone with the junior high boyfriend (we were NOT spending our time getting it on in the theater, so I thought this was pretty reasonable). So it was a pretty big deal for me when, during my sophomore year of college, I finally went through the “my parents don’t understand me” phase. I was growing up and changing into this person that didn’t exactly fit who my family had known me to be. Most of the time, these differences are easy to gloss over or to find a compromise. Sometimes, I think they think I’m trying to be contrary just for the heck of it. I think it’s more a case of nature overshadowing nurture (not that this is always how things work out…I do believe nurture plays a strong role in personality development).
But sometimes…sometimes I end up rocking the boat a little too hard.
I’m sure I’m not alone in my boat-rockingness, so I thought I’d share some ways I’ve recently (REALLY recently, actually) handled myself when confronted by my family over my “deviations from the norm.”
- Try not to prepare yourself too much. I often find myself rehearsing what I’m going to say in response to my family’s comments. This is no good—I never actually know what they’re going to say to me, so it’s pointless to spin responses around and around in my head. It just makes me more defensive.
- Remember that you’re all a little different. Sure, we’ve had many shared experiences. But we’ve all internalized those experiences in our own ways, and we’ve also had many experiences separate from our families. So we’re all coming from a slightly different place.
- But remember that there are ties that bind. It’s actually pretty hard to scare my family off. Our togetherness means that, even when they think I’m a total freak and they disagree with me completely, they’re still my family—they’re stuck with me.
- Know why you stand the way you stand. Like I said, I don’t just make decisions about how to live my life for the sake of being different from my family. If there’s one thing I am, it’s deliberate. I plan; I think things through. If I’m taking a stand on something, it’s because I have a good reason. And that makes standing up for myself and my choices a bit easier.
- Let them see you cry. If there’s another thing I am, it’s a crybaby. And I don’t care anymore. I’m a very sensitive person, and I think that’s a good quality for me to have. No good can come from hiding my emotions, so if I need to cry, I’m going to. (The one time I seem to be totally dry-eyed, even when it might be handy to cry—is if I’ve been pulled over by a cop. Go figure.)
- If your family is big enough, remember you’ll be out of the spotlight soon. Surely someone else will screw up or do something totally shocking before too long. And my decision not to do Santa will seem like yesterday’s small-potato news.
- Try to remember how it feels to be the outsider. That way, when one of your siblings is taking the heat next, you’re a little bit more empathetic. Also, it seems like this will be good practice for keeping my mind open to whoever Sadie turns out to be.
- Keep your focus. As important as my family-of-origin is, now that I have my own child, nothing is more important than my formed-family. The decisions I make with Trevor about what’s best for our family come before the priorities or opinions of anybody else—my family OR Trevor’s. I can deal with conflict, but I can’t deal with not doing what is best for Sadie.
If you’re a boat-rocker, what helps you keep the peace with your family?