Family dynamics intrigue me: it’s interesting that something one family considers normal can be the oddest thing to another family. For example, families show affection in different ways (some kiss on the lips) or have different approaches to punishment (some do not spank). A couple of my colleagues have told me that while my parents may actually be cute or adorable as I’ve been known to call them, they would never use those words to describe their parents. But no matter how different families may be, most families have love in common.
My parents have four children, two girls and two boys. I’m the oldest and I’m in my mid-30s. My sister is two years younger than me—she is married and she and my brother-in-law have toddler son. My two brothers are in their late 20s. We all live in the same province in Canada. My dad lives six hours away from us (he was transferred there by his employer almost 4.5 years ago). My youngest brother lives five hours away, and one hour away from my dad. For the past 6.5 years I’ve lived 15 minutes away from my parents.
My dad comes home every two to three weeks. I visit my family at least twice a week: one weeknight and most of Sunday. I usually sleep over if we have public holidays and when my sister was in Nigeria for five or six months at at time, I partially moved back home to keep my mom company. Last year was the first Christmas that our nuclear family wasn’t all together because my sister was in Nigeria—for 25 years we had celebrated Christmas as a family of six. If I’m not mistaken this year was the first that I didn’t see my mom on her birthday because she was away—we try to always be together for family celebrations such as birthdays.
Though I haven’t lived at my parents’ place for over six years you’ve probably guessed that I’m quite attached to my family. I’m most attached to my parents: I worry about their health as they’re getting older and since they’re in a long-distance relationship I like to check in with my dad by phone or text message daily to make sure that he’s not too lonely and my mom and I keep in almost daily contact. If I don’t hear from my sister by text message in a day, I start wondering what’s up: most of the time the reason I haven’t heard from her is because she’s busy mothering or resting after a sleepless night. Boys are different: my brothers bear my weekly checkups gracefully and because the last thing that men of that age want is a big sister harassing them, I leave them alone. This may make me sound like a great daughter and sibling but honestly I do it for my own peace of mind: I can’t fully be at peace and feel relaxed if I don’t know what is up with my family. I know this will change as I realize that I’m not superwoman and have no power to save my family or anyone from pain or suffering—it’s a work in progress!
One aspect of family dynamics is how the family is divided when there are sides to be taken due to a disagreement or a fight. My parents generally don’t take sides—they focus on getting the people fighting to resolve their issue, and they don’t hesitate to tell both parties what they’ve done wrong. Among the siblings we often divide up into “the girls” against “the boys”. My sister and I have very similar views on a lot of things, and we sound alike. We regularly say the same things and can almost read each other minds in some regards. My youngest brother and I have common interests, while he also has common (but different) interests with my sister. The elder of my two youngest brothers is closest to his brother, though he and my sister also get along, maybe because they’re both the “middle children”. He and I don’t share much in the way of common interests but we do have some similar personality traits (hence our clashes in the past). In our family the people who are closest or most similar to each other tend to clash the most: my dad and I are close, while my mom and sister are close.
No one is afraid to raise their voice to be heard in our family, and when we all get together there are usually at least a couple of disagreements because we’re different people—I know a few friends who would feel uncomfortable having dinner with our family because they’d be worried that these disagreements are serious due to the raised voices. And while it’s never cool to come to physical blows or to insult one another, I don’t have a problem with people passionately airing differences of opinion—in fact I get uncomfortable in environments where everything is bland and surface-level with the people that you live with or once lived with, where people deliberately don’t challenge each other for fear of starting a fight.
I want to know about your family: What are your family dynamics? What does your family do that others may consider weird?