Why I Won’t Put Family First

The point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent. -Kim Books

Art is a revolt – Hippocrates

I have something to say.

If art imitates life, and art in it’s truest form is a revolt, then why are most people walking around, living a life of conformity?

Why are we teaching our kids to flock together like a bunch of lemmings, or worse, like ostriches with our heads in the sand; we don’t know what we are doing or why we are doing it, but at least we are all doing the same thing.

Right?

For most of our marriage, my husband and I have been quietly going about the business of subversion. Of revolting against a social norm that frankly, makes us crazy. And now, we are inviting our children into our riot act.

Let me explain.

Since getting married, forming friendships with other married couples, and now, having a family of our own, my husband and I are confounded by the idea that family comes first. Always family. Family, family, family.

No matter how horrible they treat you. No matter how bad the manipulation. No matter how toxic the relationship. No matter how destructive the behavior. Family first.

Wha???

I see people getting beat up and knocked down but still going back for more, because they’re family.

I see people watch their family treat other members with hatred but still they maintain their relationship, because they’re family.

I see people constantly discouraged by bitter attitudes, manipulation, passive aggressiveness, and judgment, but still keep those individuals in their life, because they’re family.

This is crazy

Mike and I are all-in with our relationships. We believe in relationships. We believe in committing. In growing together. In sticking with people through good and bad. In working through differing opinions, hurt feelings, and bad decisions.

In order to be all-in with our relationships, though, we’ve learned when to cut people loose. Because you can’t grow your good relationships when your bad relationships monopolize your heart, your time, and your energy.

Hate, anger, mean-spiritedness, and manipulation are like mold; you can ignore it when you first see it in the cabinet under the sink, but before too long, it will be everywhere. It will have consumed everything. It will have turned even the good things into something ugly.

And while most of us would agree that toxic friendships need to be removed from our lives for our own health and wellness, most of us struggle when the source of that disfunction comes from a family member.

I’m here to tell you today that your birth certificate is not a bill of sale. It does not give someone ownership of you. It does not give someone the right to be reckless with your feelings, manipulate your decisions, or judge your life. The name on your birth certificate should imply one thing: this is a group of people who will love me.

I’m not saying you cut people out of your life because they make you mad, because you are annoyed with their life decisions, or because you struggle to understand them. This is not an issue of preference. It’s an issue of love and respect.

Do the people in your life love you? Do the people in your life respect you? Can you walk away from your interactions with the people in your life and feel confident that they have your best interests at heart, even if you don’t always agree?

Dear ones. If you answered no to any of those questions then maybe it’s time to cut. them. loose.

Even if they’re family.

I was having a conversation with a friend about the quote I shared at the top of the page. I told her that I haven’t struggled to continue to craft my art (writing) through motherhood. I told her that I completely disagreed with the idea that art and motherhood are at odds. My family – my husband and my kids – are truly a work of living art. And my art (writing) is reflective of my family. I told her that I absolutely want to raise subversive kids that revolt against norms that are unhealthy, unnecessary, and that inhibit the growth of life and love.

We’ve taken a long hard look at this idea of “family”: of what it should mean, what it does mean, and what our response should be as a result.

Our conclusion?

You can have your toxic relationships. You can keep your manipulation. If it’s more important to you to have the socially acceptable, totally theoretical, completely cultural idea of family, with all it’s disfunction, fine. You go right ahead. Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t happen to have any haters in your bloodline. Either way. I just want you to know that you have a choice.

You don’t have to take it anymore. You don’t owe them anything.

I choose to say no to including some people in my life so that I can wake up every day and say yes to Mike, to Theodore, to Oliver, to Beatrice, and to the many other people we invest in. I say yes to some healthy family relationships. I say yes to friends who feel like family. But I will no longer feel like I have to say yes to someone simply because we share a last name.

I stand on the side of love. For life. For what is right.

Haters to the left.

 

 

 

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