Family doesn’t get to be mean

Shortly after I learned and announced I was pregnant, I received more correspondence from immediate and extended family than I had in years.

They let me know how horrible I am; how I ruin everything I touch; how I’m selfish and won’t just “get over” how my family treats me (because there’s nothing wrong with how they treat me); how I’m the common denominator to all of these problems, so the problem must be me; how the baby deserves to know its family.

My strong opinion about that?

Family doesn’t get to treat you badly just because they’re family.

Would I love for The Kid to know his family? Sure. In much the same way that I would love to have a family. I share DNA with those people, and they laid a foundation for me that I’ve spent most of my life trying to heal from and move beyond, but they’re not family.

Family doesn’t get to treat you badly just because they’re related.

This includes siblings! It’s really common for people not to care that their kids are treating each other badly because “that’s what brothers do.” (I don’t hear it so often about sisters, but I’m sure it’s a thing.)

I talked to one mom once—just one—who insisted that her sons treat each other well. She explicitly told them that they are family and that it’s their job to take care of each other.

I have trouble believing that it’s OK to hurt people—to laugh at their expense—because they’re family. Wouldn’t that be the reason not to? Wouldn’t you want to take care of the people who supposedly you’re the closest to?

Caveat: I recognize that this is a sore spot for me, and that maybe people who feel loved in their families don’t have issue with also being made fun of. But to the extent that I know stuff, people whose family acts like that don’t necessarily feel safe being vulnerable with them, either.

Flip side of the caveat: I also know and know of too many people who were physically or sexually abused by siblings and couldn’t do anything about it because “it’s family.” And I don’t believe that verbal or mental abuse is somehow better or easier or less important than physical or sexual. I’m also not saying that all teasing is abusive.

All that said … I know there are a lot of people who disagree. Family is family and you suck it up and deal with the unpleasantness because it’s family. I maintain that it’s family’s job to create decent human beings, and if you have to suck it up to be able to spend a few hours together, the family has failed at its job.

People you are closest to should thrive because of you, not in spite of you. Deal with your baggage. Stop taking it out on your kids or your spouse or whomever. Make your family a safe place for everyone.

Be nice.

0 thoughts on “Family doesn’t get to be mean”

Leave a Comment