Family. It is so much a part of our identity. We hunger to understand who we are and how we’ve been shaped by our upbringing. I was reminded of this during a family reunion this summer.
Back in August, I received an invitation on Facebook from my niece saying, “I’m having a graduation party. I want you to comeeee!!!!” Her family had planned a reunion to celebrate Aimee’s college graduation. Aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, brothers and sisters and parents, would gather from five states to spend the weekend together. Best, Aimee’s recently found sister, Lisa, would be coming, too.
Of course, the thought of being ripped away from his friends for an any reason held about as much excitement for my son as a visit to the dentist. No rousing enthusiasm here, particularly when he learned his two teenage cousins might not be attending.
The first time I mentioned it, the news was met with an eye roll, followed by a groan, and then a mumbled (because the boy always mumble these days),
“Ugh. Really? No way. I’m not going.”
This scene was repeated several times over the course of the week. He figured if he didn’t get his way initially, repeated snarling might eventually lead to a win by exhaustion.
But I can be stubborn, too.
His response prompted several motherly lectures along the lines of 1. you make time for family because family is important (setting priorities), 2. we sometimes must do things we don’t want to do (honoring commitment), 3. your needs don’t always come first (others over self), and so on. It would have been easier to cave and say, “Fine. Stay here. See if I care.” But I did care. I looked forward to hearing my son’s laughter, to watching him banter with my brother, to having him embraced by the family that loves him.
I did understand his feelings. I flashed back on my own teen years, remembering how annoyed I felt when my own mother would insist I miss something for a family event. Like my son, I would dig in my heels. But her message was similar. Family matters. There are times when we make those people our first priority. Period.
Thsse are the values family life imbues in us, providing a foundation on which to build our lives. This belief system helps us discern right from wrong, while teaching lessons on love and forgiveness, commitment and trust.
So we drove to Huntsville, wrapped in a frosty detente, watching the endless miles of farmland roll by to the techno beat of my son’s music. When we arrived at my step-sister’s house far later than expected, we were greeted with outstretched arms, and the collective warmth of those we love melted the hardness of our hearts
The importance of family was once again brought into sharp relief when I met Lisa, Aimee’s sister, and heard the story of their reunion. The girls had been put up for adoption years ago by a mother unprepared to raise them. Despite being adopted into loving families, both lived with a terrible sense of longing, wondering about their mother and a family they never knew. Now that these two young women had found each other, there had been visits and a wedding to celebrate, events that enabled them to weave each other into their lives. Seeing them together, similar yet unique, they were finally more complete.
Family is complicated, and not everything we are given is good and true. There are skeltons that rattle us to the core. But while our family informs our past, it does not define our future. That is left up to us. We must decide for ourselves which values we choose to honor and which we must choose to cast aside. That is part of our own graduation, into adulthood.