How do you articulate the complicated feelings surrounding family? Most people talk lovingly of their family, but what if it wasn’t all positive. If that’s the case what label do you give it? Is it good, bad, or something in between?
I’m not sure how deeply I wish to dive into my personal life, but this blog has been a mix of me / “her” and our feelings and thoughts surrounding our life. A big part of that is our respective families. And I feel that eventually I have to mention my family.
Our families shape who we are and what we believe. And in fundamentalist circles this gets even further focused on. Your father and mother are suppose to be the sole focus of who has direct authority over your life. The church and g-d are also included as authorities in your life, but for day to day instruction it is the family that often carries this out.
As part of a push to remain in a leadership and teaching role in their children’s lives, some fundamentalist will move towards homeschooling their children. Both myself and “her” were part of families that did this. So while the negative or positives of a family’s traits may be more rounded out in a school or public setting often children of fundamentalist homeschoolers do not get that chance.
I know I’ve used this image before, but I feel it represents well how my family operated. The father is led by g-d to protect his wife and children, and he has the ultimate say in the household. The mother has management of the children at home, but is considered lesser that her husband in terms of authority and leadership.
While many people still promote this idea, I feel it’s a very harmful one. One that only servers to benefit the man in the end. And suffice to say it did not work well in my family dynamic with my father often immediately cutting off my mother from even further discussion on a dispute. His word was always last and weighted the heaviest
While my father may have filled the roles of protector and provider well. He failed to meet my mother’s or his children’s emotional needs. I vary back and forth between calling it verbal abuse or emotional neglect.
His words were sharp and very rarely encouraging. And I honestly can’t recall a memory of him saying that he loved me. I know he may have, but I never believed it enough to commit to memory. Which the more I reflect on it the more it pains me.
Most of the time I settle on emotional neglect.
While he is still a part of my life, he has never emotionally been part of it. Nor do I honestly see that changing.
What term is suitable for those emotions? The twist of longing for a childhood you never had, for a father that cared.
I feel frustration and pain every time I see my father shut my mother down, pushing her back into her role of submission. Shame over how my family lives and continues to act. Wishing I could give them a better life, a better marriage, or a better life separated from each other.
I’ve read something my mother wrote and it will haunt me for a long time. She wrote how their marriage is one of holiness not happiness. Implying it is literally only g-d keeping them together. In order to be a proper Christian testimony, their religion ties them together in misery.
And I know she does live in suffering. She has many past hurts to heal from, but every time the pain rises and depression or anxiety strikes my mother turns to her g-d. While at the same time shunning therapy or medication.
Their beliefs trap them together in the same life together. Neither one of them believe in separation or divorce, but both of them are unhappy where they are at. However they refuse to work together to fix the problems there.
I point out these personal examples to merely show that despite the church’s relentless push towards “preserving the family,” Often many of these families that are “preserved” are in no way happy. Marriage is placed on such a high pedestal that to break that vow would be a horrible sin before g-d and the community. Even if that very marriage is harmful to the family.
The focus tends to be on staying together “no matter what,” despite the cost to the family. I think family is a complicated issue and one that does not always break down to a simple answer of husband, wife, and kids together forever. To take any nuance out of the argument just snubs those that don’t perfectly fit into that mold.
And although I have not experienced divorce personally, I’ve seen how those in divorced families are often treated within the Church. Kids pushed to the side and told that their mom and dad sinned, or how their parents should have “just made it work.” Kids and their single parent sitting in church, judgmental side glances and whispers behind turned backs.
At this point in my life I don’t care what anyone calls a sin or not. The bible can be pulled in many direction over interpretations over a single verse or issue. Stop debating and start show others kindness and care. Pointing faults and failures in a person’s life is harmful, and does nothing to further love or care towards these families.
Regardless of family structure or beliefs, families need love and care from their communities. And it saddens me every time I see the Church fail in that way. A family should not have to fit into a idealized mold to be part of a loving church community.