I am the black sheep of the family. It’s really a toss-up between me and one of my brothers, who keeps himself in exile from the family most of the time. Both of us are outspoken, opinionated, and we both refuse to kiss anyone’s ass. Ask for an opinion, and you’ll get it, honest, unvarnished, and sparing little feelings in the process. (For the record, I can take it as well as I can dish it out.)
I am the unabashed hippie liberal, an agonistic, in a family of Bible-believing, card-carrying, in church every time the doors are open Christians. My views on life, God, religion, and just about everything, make my family uncomfortable. But we’re family, more opinions are better right? There is room for every soul at the proverbial family dinner table.
I have not expected to find myself ignored, blocked, and cut-off from my family.
If I am completely honest, it stings.
More for the girls than for me. I get how complicated the politics of my family are. I’ve never been the favored grandchild, or niece, or cousin. I am too much my father’s daughter, a reminder of the Grade A bastard my mom married.
My Dad tries, in his overbearing, commanding, demanding way; he tries. He calls to check on the girls, asks for pictures, wants to know that we’re all healthy and doing fine. I have never been able to go to him with my deepest agonies, he is a man who has locked his emotions away, and we’ve never been able to truly connect. But he tries, with everything he has. I’ve long accepted that I got Daddy’s eyes, and his temper, and his mouth. I’ve long accepted my last name, and the weight that comes with it. Because he gives as much of a damn as he possibly can.
But Sprout especially, has no understanding, can’t even begin to fathom it. And now, cut off from my family, she questions. She wants to know where family members she has met and grown to love are. I fall back on the response of how far away they physically are, which is true, half a country now stands between me and the majority of my Mama’s kin.
But there is a day coming when I will have to explain to her the whys of it, and how the gulf that exists between my family and I came to be. I find myself grasping at straws even now, explaining to her. At 4 she points out the phones in the house, and asks why no one calls to talk to her. She’s asked me repeatedly why the people she loves don’t love her back, and the response sticks in my throat. That it’s not her they don’t love, it’s me.
I have accepted my place in the family, and I own it. I am the black sheep, and I make black sheep look good. At least I’m honest about my life, and my good points, and my failings. I am who I am, and I cannot change that, will not change that. But I’m having a hard time reconciling that my place in the family, is the place now shared by my daughters.
Logically I know it’s my family who is missing out. I have two fantastic children, an older daughter who is fierce and tough, who is a fearless leader, who colors outside the lines because it looks better that way, who wears purple and yellow together and proclaims she looks good, who marches to the beat of her own drum in every way possible. And a baby who is laidback and good natured, who smiles when you talk to her, and lays her head on your shoulder when she’s tired, a baby who is always up for a snuggle and a late-night chat.
My family is missing that. They are missing the wild and crazy times of my girls’ start in life, they’re missing all the fun things they do, muddy puddle walks, bath paints, Candy Land until we’re giggling too hard to play, reading books until everyone is sleepy, late night popcorn and movies and sleeping bags on the floor. When, or if, my relationship with my family is ever repaired, they will not get these times back, once they come and go they’re gone.
And there is a peace in being on the outside. I am not brought into the gossip and whispering that consumes whole parts of my family. I don’t know who is mad at whom; I don’t know who pitched a fit over what and when, or who owes who an apology for a perceived slight. There is peace being out in the desert, literally and metaphorically.
When I look at the big picture, when I leave the trees alone and see the forest, I see that my blood family is just a piece of the bigger picture. The girls are surrounded by family, the one I married into, and the one Hubs and I made; some friendships grow beyond that term. If family is defined not by who you share DNA with, but by who is there for you during the bad times and the good, who calls you just to say hi and chat, who checks in and cheers you up, who offers a shoulder to cry on, then the girls are surrounded by a patchwork of family and friends, who have grown into Family.
In my Family, we are all accepted as we are, and there is room for everyone. We fight, we fuss, we make up and keep going, we love unconditionally, and we’re supportive and understanding. We have redefined family. This is the Family I want for my girls, and I am so thankful they have it.