Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ruminating on Family...

Dave and I have such different experiences of family. Not as in, his are all negative and mine are all positive, but as in despite the "issues" my family have here and there, there is cohesion, whereas when his family has had issues there hasn't been cohesion, and people have just stopped talking to one another and being in one another's lives.

My family is also a lot larger than his.

So, he can't understand where I'm coming from when it comes to family, which is the base for a couple of our own issues. After watching that DVD last night, I came to a couple of realisations about myself. My identity is very strongly based in my sense of family - I wonder if that is true for everyone, I'm assuming it isn't, but maybe it is? - and particularly in relation to my mother's family, which I feel very strong bonds with.

As I've mentioned before, when I was about 10 months old, I went and lived with my mum's family for about 10 months. This is because my parents were living on a farm that wasn't really suitable for an infant - it didn't have adequate heating, I don't think. So, I lived on the next farm with my grandparents and mum's 6 brothers and sisters (maybe only 5 of them, my uncle may have already been married by then, I think)... I coslept with my grandparents, and so I think I formed a very strong bond with them. My mum's youngest sister would have only been about 6 at the time, and her other two sisters would have been 8 and 9, so I very much was just the "littlest sister"... I would have been sorrounded by a lot of family!

Then we moved to Australia. We lived near Dad's family, his parents and his five siblings, the youngest of which was also only 5 years older than me. I used to spend whole weekends at Nanna's house with all my Dad's siblings.

Then we moved back to Iceland and back to Mum's family. We didn't live with them, but we lived in the same town of just over 1000 residents.

Then Dad took us back to Australia and this time left my brother and I at his parents place for nearly three months while he went back to Iceland to be with mum who had had to stay behind to have an operation on her knee and for financual reasons. Michael and I had to be wholly reliant on Dad's family.

So, basically more people meant more safety.

Then we moved to Whyalla in SA. We had no family there are all. That was also when things started to go downhill in my parents relationship - from my perspective, I should add, I don't know what the internal workings of their relationship really were, only they can know that.

We lived there for a few years, and occassionally we'd drive the long drive to Wollongong in NSW to visit Dad's family, and once in a while someone from Dad's family would come and visit us. Dad's middle brother, Paul, came to live with us for a couple of months at one stage. I loved him to pieces! Having other family members living with us always made the house seem happier.

So, back to now. Watching that DVD last night reminded me of all of that. I tried to explain to Dave this morning how I felt like our kids were missing all of the family togetherness, but he said it was natural to see something as emotive as that DVD that takes out all the dull and negative moments of family gathers, leaving just the fun and togetherness. Seriously, I know I'm romanticising it a bit, but not that much, there actually is a lot of cohesion in my mum's family. There is a lot of other stuff that goes on too, but basically, they're all close, and I miss that.

So, then, of course, I realise, I'm trying to create that here, in our family. But for me it's all very closely linked to have a BIG family. More people means more cohesion, more options, more chances of having someone to go to when you're not getting along with someone else. More people to share the happy and sad moments with.

I think about when Dave's parents die, this thought haunts me quite a bit. There will only be us, only the boys and I to comfort Dave, and we don't know his family at all, we can't share his childhood memories with him. He is not close with any of his cousins, he has four cousins, but never sees any of them, so when his parents die, it'll just be him with his memories and no one to reminisce with. That may not be at all important to him, I don't know, he never talks about it.

My boys have no direct cousins. Dave has no siblings, of course, and I only have Michael, who has no children, and isn't likely to ever have children. I worry that when my boys grow up, their only family will be each other. Are three people enough? This is when I think I need to have a bunch more kids. I don't care how hard the intermediate years would be, because I need to ensure my kids have enough family when they're older. I know this is probably very irrational. I'm not arguing that it isn't.

Maybe it's better they don't have the big family experience. Then they won't know what they're missing. Dave certainly doesn't think he's missing anything. He's happy enough on his own, I think. Maybe I'm just transferring too much...


Rachael said...

I've had to consider all this myself, in light of the fact that I'm an only child, to an only child parent (my mum's brother who she didn't actually meet until she was an adult and who died shortly after), with an estranged father. DH is one of 4, but none of his siblings live in Melbourne.

I've often romanticised the idea of a big family - but know that not everyone has a great experience with that...

I think these days as people generally have smaller families, they create connections with friends that can be as close if not closer than with blood relations.

And then on top of all that there are plenty of people who consider with the state of our planet that it is downright irresponsible for anyone to have more than 2 children...:(. I'm not saying I agree with that, but I certainly ponder it yk?

Sif Dal said...

Rach, I know what you mean by friends coming to replace family, but unfortunately, friends can´t provide a framework for your roots, I guess. That´s the thing for me - and I accept this might be cultural. I've been brought up with a very strong sense of my heritage, on my mother's side of the family. A LOT of my conversation with my mum, and her family are an oracy of family "stories", this aunt did this, that uncle when there, that parent founded such and such an organisation or was revered for being this or that.

In mum's family there is a loooooong tradition of investigating how members of the family are similar, not just in looks and mannerisms, but in life choices, talents, and personality.

This is less so with my father's family, but even so, just recently my paternal grandmother has realised I'm interested in this stuff, and has been writing to me with stories of her childhood, of my dad's father's family and so on.

So, I want my children to know these people, I guess.

I think all the moving people do these days, this globalisation of the world, is fantastic, but at the same time, people are losing these connections, sometimes just a little bit, but sometimes completely. In two generations my family is losing a massive chunk of it's Icelandic-ness. My sons don't speak or comprehend the language, and that means they can't understand the mindset - language is very important to mindset. So, essentially their family is becoming foreign to them, and I find that incredibly sad in a way... Not that they know any different, and even if they did learn the language, they would face this situation but moreso with their own children, and I wouldn't mind sparing them that...

Good Job!