Relationships with family come in all shapes and sizes. I consider myself blessed to have parents who are alive and to have a great relationship with them both. I know not everyone can say the same, and I don’t take that for granted.
Growing up in a Filipino household, I slowly realized that we did things differently than the typical American household. One thing that stood out to me in particular was that we didn’t always eat dinner at the “normal” dinner time — and we didn’t really eat dinner together often. Both my parents worked as waiters at country clubs and usually worked during dinner time, so it made sense. But it happened so often that our eating habits stayed the same even when they weren’t working. To be fair, we did have dinner together occasionally, but usually only during special occasions.
Later in college, I did a presentation on family dinners, and I learned that kids who grew up in a household with routine family dinners typically had better grades, better relationships with their parents, better health habits, and better behavior overall. Despite my minor acts of teenage rebellion and occasional family arguments, I consider myself a statistical anomaly.
My experience made it clear to me that what’s viewed as the “norm” isn’t always accurate in regards to what makes a family work. Now, I have a family of my own, and with that comes a fresh set of challenges. But one thing I won’t allow myself to do is put pressure on myself to make sure our family does everything by the book. Each person is unique, each family is unique, and each life experience is unique. What makes a good family isn’t how many times you eat dinner together each week, how well you all work on a puzzle together, or how many family traditions you have. While those activities can help us bond with our families, if we only do those things to be like the other families, we might be disappointed with the outcome.
Embrace your family’s uniqueness and show your family love how you know your family shows you love. For me and my family, I’m learning how to cook Filipino dishes that my parents used to make and passing them on to my family. Spending time creating familiar meals and asking my parents for tips on how to cook certain dishes is just one way I get to spend some intentional time with them, especially living across the country from one another. That won’t look the same for your family, and it shouldn’t.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, in this next edition of Grotto, we’ll be talking about family. We’ll be examining how family impacts all of us in both similar and entirely unique ways. Maybe your family is your rock, your foundation. Maybe you come from a difficult family environment, and boundaries and distance are necessary to keeping your relationship healthy. Whatever the case, we all have a family, whether we’re born into it, we chose it, or it chose us. In some way, shape, or form, we’re all dealing with the realities that come with it — aging, broken relationships, new additions, political differences, healing, and much more. Join us this month at Grotto as we explore the topic of family through storytelling.