You Can’t Pick Your Family. But, you should learn to.
As the holidays approach we can’t continue to stay at a distance with the one’s who may bring us more misery than they do joy.
By Emily Garcia
Familial pressure spikes around the holidays. It’s not necessarily an unexpected phenomenon, either. A common trope in holiday comedies is the protagonist binge-drinking eggnog or hiding in the bathroom to cope with overbearing in-laws. You invited extended family to share personal space; what did you expect? Yet, in every movie, it seems that by the end the protagonists are able to come to terms with how their families act and treat them, which couldn’t be further removed from family relations in real life.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “You can’t pick your family” tossed around a time or two. This phrase is good for anything ranging from a family battling over rival football teams to a family member’s custody of their youngest child. But there’s a problem with that phrase: It simply ignores one of the scientific definitions of a family, which is “a group of related things.”
You can pick your family. You have full control over the people you want creeping into your headspace around the holidays. Often individuals feel an unnecessary pressure to welcome less-than-lovely people into their homes simply because they are” family.” But being family does not in any way excuse bad behavior. Being family does not mean you are their doormat or that they are yours.
For people with divorced parents – which are a lot of us, since the divorce rate is about 40% to 50% in America, according to the American Psychological Association – “they are family” may be the most insensitive statement of all. It’s almost a form of child-blaming to tell the progeny of a divorced family that they need to welcome their perhaps-estranged parents with open arms. The holidays coerce people into feeling like the overall joyous spirit is going to revamp their relationship with their families, when in reality only time and effort on the part of both parties will have that desired effect.
If your family is broken, or even a little bent, don’t worry. You still have every right to enjoy the holidays and deny people access to your home and your cooking if you choose. The holidays may be a family event but your friends are your family, your neighbors are your family, your pets are your family and, above all, you are your family.
Find this article on The Augusta Chronicle’s website: https://www.augustachronicle.com/opinion/20191207/letter-you-can-pick-your-family