Friday, May 13, 2011

What Family Means

When I was younger, my cousin and I were very close.  She had some "attitude issues" and could be hard to get along with, but overall we were friends.  Sometime about five years ago, she was effectively disowned and moved far away.  My family hasn't seen her since then.  She will call sometimes, and I found her on Facebook, so we keep in touch a little bit.

When I was in grad school, she'd call me occasionally, asking for money or trying to sell me stereos at a good price that I was pretty sure were stolen.  She didn't stop asking until I explained to her that I couldn't make my own rent (which was 100% true at that time).  She hasn't asked me since then, but she asks the rest of the family at least a couple of times a year.

A few months ago, she had a baby.  I knew about it before she had it, but no one else did.  She told her mother about him when he was a week old.  The father was deported, so she's raising him on her own, living on welfare. 

I'm having a hard time balancing how my family treats her with how I should treat her.  I know that she's manipulative and has deeply hurt her parents in the past.  On the other hand, I feel so bad that her son will grow up without ANY family other than his mother.

I also feel like this is a warning sign that any false move on my part will put me in the same boat.  Rather than family meaning unconditional love, I walk on eggshells all the time.  Did I forget a thank you note or haven't called in a couple of weeks?  Ticks go in the negative column.  I have to pull something big to get back into good graces.

One of my biggest fears is incorporating the negative characteristics and habits of my existing family into my newly formed family.  I never want to put my kids - or anyone else for that matter - in the position of having to choose between who they are, their dreams, and their family.

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