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How Do Families Shape Who We Are : Here’s A Take

Posted: July 9, 2015

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Our families have always been our biggest influence. In this post, the writer talks of ways in which our families shape who we are.

The topic of dysfunctional families is a favorite for most movie plots, and although we try to steer clear of that discussion, it definitely crosses our minds. We may not be as intense as the Corleone family, but we have our eccentricities. The environment we grow up in shapes us as adults, and also cast its impression on our own families when we have them eventually.

I am not obsessed with parenting as a concept; I sincerely believe that children grow up without us patronizing them much. Also, how our children turn out should not serve as a complete judgment on parents, because there are environmental factors at play too – the parents of criminals may not have done anything evil in their own lives. We need to cut parents some slack.

Having said that, I will not deny that as children, sometimes we loved and envied the way other families bonded. I for one had parents who were very shy to show their affection physically, so we grew out of hugs quicker than we grew out of our diapers. So whenever I see parents hugging their grown up children, I have an awkward flipping in my stomach, much like Willy Wonka, when he had to say ‘parents’. Our affection was shown more in deeds than in actions. My father let us put our hands into his pockets and draw out a chocolate every day when he came back from work, he still brings a chocolate when I visit now, along with an additional one for my daughter.

Even when children grow up and leave the nest, some parents are in constant touch with them over phone, email and even social networks, in a way knowing their every move. In such cases, parents are more like friends and confidantes, and children share their deepest feelings and genuine concerns with them; questions related to work, finances, or relationships. Others, on the other hand, exist in a parallel universe where once an adult, you lead your own life and have occasional chats with the folks to ensure their well-being, their counsel only being sought when all other doors seem closed.

Every family has rituals which they follow and they can be really varied and interesting.

Every family has rituals which they follow and they can be really varied and interesting. Some go on annual pilgrimages or holidays. Some donate to charities to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. My mother-in-law would make an investment for each child on their birthday. That is one of the most practical and wise rituals I have come across. Eating out or buying toys/gadgets has become very commonplace nowadays, and I am not sure how much value today’s children associate with it. But for us, any trip to the market was a very exciting affair which happened once in a blue moon. Today, if a family manages to have at least one meal together, it is regarded as a big achievement.

So much for the good stuff. I have seen some families do really nasty things. One of my neighbors was very miserly about buying gifts. So when their child had to go to someone’s birthday party, they would just re-gift some item which they had received and were not using. I fell prey to this when I got a butter dish for my birthday, I mean, who gives a butter dish to a 10-year-old?? I’m sure they hadn’t watched Seinfeld, ever, to know how taboo ‘re-gifting’ was on the social scale. And who can forget the “Snake dance” from our very own Bride and Prejudice. It has me in splits every time I see it.

We are talking about LGBT rights and same-sex marriages when the fact of the matter remains that choosing your own life-partner is frowned upon by most families

We hear of Khaps and other moral police who can kill in their own families for honour; who shake the very foundations of love. We are talking about LGBT rights and same-sex marriages when the fact of the matter remains that choosing your own life-partner is frowned upon by most families, having nothing to do with education or upbringing. Deep roots of caste and creed are still entrenched in the minds of many parents, who intend to protect their children from harm, but lose their judgment when it comes to matters of the heart. Many of my close friends have lost the battle of trying to live with a spouse chosen entirely on basis of birth charts and matrimonial sites. Some have had their marriage boycotted by the entire family because the boy/girl they chose was not from the same caste.

In life, we receive our family as our very first diorama of the society we are going to constitute as adults. The trials and tribulations that we experience shapes our idea of family life. We aim to be more progressive with our children and bridge the gap the last generation could not, but also end up creating notions which our coming generations will challenge. Such is the circle of life.

Indian family image via Shutterstock

I love literature, studied engineering, and work as a Statistical Programmer in the Pharma domain.

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