Family Dynamics (part 2)

I was young, strong-willed, and had a vision. I grew up being my mom’s mom, or that’s what I felt like, and I wanted to get out, do my own thing, and have my own family. From an early age, I knew I wanted a husband and kids in that order. I could envision my perfect life, a house, a husband that would love me unconditionally, and two kids. We would live happily ever after. 

You can go one of two ways when you grow up with few rules. Number one, you go buck wild, doing what you have seen all your life, or two, you are a rule follower because you crave stability. Rules are like coloring in the lines. Going outside might give some of us anxiety. 

Once I graduated high school, I had a decision to make, move to Los Angeles with my mom and stepdad or move in with my boyfriend, who I had been dating since I was sixteen. We got engaged in my senior year of high school, so it was a no-brainer. The day after I turned eighteen, I moved into his dad’s house and thought I was hot shit. 

Talk about family dynamics. I now lived in a room no bigger than my king-sized bed, my fiance’s father, and his two younger brothers. Their mother had deserted them years before, and their father was raising them. An actual bachelor’s pad now had a young woman with rules and plans living among them. I had no desire to live in a place that wasn’t clean and organized. They had no desire to change their ways. It sounded good initially, but soon my fiance and I realized we needed our own home. When I broached the subject with his dad, I was told in no uncertain terms that his son was not ready to move out. We knew our decision to leave his house would cause problems, but we went anyway. 

Living on our own was everything I wanted. I felt like an adult, free from my parents, free to make my own decisions and do what I wanted to do. Looking back on how young we both were, working and trying to figure out how to make things work was fine initially. You believe you can make anything work and change things quickly when you are young. I now know we had no idea what was in store for us. Finances and injuries would be an integral part of our relationship. We always seemed to be navigating family, employers, and lawyers while trying to stay sane. It was a challenging task that eventually took its toll.

After a seven-year engagement, I was ready to settle down and have a family. I believed we had been through a lot, our relationship was strong, and regardless of social and family dynamics, we would be by each other’s side through thick and thin. We faced racial discrimination because we were an interracial couple and had successfully combined our families. Both of us came from divorced parents, so the dynamics were tricky. We had high hopes that our marriage would last the test of time.

Then there were four. Once you have children, the dynamic of the family changes. Stress, communication, sleep deprivation, money issues, cooking, cleaning, fundamental decisions, agreeing on how to raise the kids, punishment, schooling, clothes, makeup, sports, music, boys, studying, homework, giving them a cell phone or not. All while you work your ass off to pay for everything you think your kids need to be doing to get into a great college eighteen years from now. 

When stress is commonplace in your life, you may not realize how it affects your relationship with your spouse, children, and everyone around you. When you’re young, it’s even harder to recognize the cause and know how to deal with it. Sitting here writing this on my 57th birthday, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. I believed I was staying in front of all the fastballs life was throwing at me. Notice I use the word I a lot. It was a theme in my life. I felt alone a lot in my childhood and my relationship. 

When you are a child, your parents should guide you along the path, teaching and explaining basic concepts, values, and rules. When married, you should walk the path together as a team—making decisions as a unit, compromising, and learning. When I was married, we seldom made decisions together. Our values differed; our needs were on the other end of the scale. This division of ideals created a dynamic that became more and more toxic as the years went on. 

As our girls matured and began making their own decisions, the reality of how we raised them showed. Without realizing what we had done, our marriage’s dynamic shaped our daughter’s view of life, relationships, money, religion, sex, and school and how they viewed marriage. Of course, with all generations, things change, dynamics change, life changes, and how we raise our children. Instagram is the new What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and everything I fed my girls is now toxic to babies. 

With each generation, we learn, and we get better. It doesn’t matter how much you study or think you know. You still don’t know what you don’t know. Regardless of age, there will always be family issues, but maturity helps you deal with problems more calmly. I wish that I had the wisdom of today when I was younger. I am thankful for the things I have experienced and grateful to be able to pass on my experiences to my children today with a different perspective. I enjoy discussing what happened over the years with my kids so they can learn and grow from what I did and walk a smoother path.

The family dynamics will always have twists and turns; that’s what life is all about. How you navigate those twists and turns determines how you survive. Be kind, be willing to admit your mistakes, and learn to communicate just a little bit better.

By Lisa C


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