Philosophical Monday: The Imperfect Family

BettyandLizGreetings from St. Louis! I’ve been here for three days, and I must say that being with family now that I have a daughter of my own has been an interesting experience.

First of all, there is something about a baby that turns your family into a font of unsolicted advice. There was the 30 minute Sock Debate, which ended with me wearily putting a pair of socks on Betty’s feet even though she was in a perfectly warm house and did not need socks. But I was broken down after every relative over 50 (of which I have many) asked me why she wasn’t wearing socks and then proceeded to tell me why she should be wearing socks, seemingly unable to hear my practical counter argument of “it’s not cold.”

I was also told by another aunt that Betty was “spoiled already,” because I had to hold her and rock her when she got upset. And I won’t even go into how many family members have chided me for being overweight (apparently baby weight was lost a lot faster back in the day) and having a “fat” baby. “You can’t even see her eyes!” one of my aunts proclaimed. When I tried to explain that the baby MO was to grow out then up, an older cousin said, “Not anymore. There’s an epidemic on you know. These kids just stay fat these days.” It’s like they have just enough knowledge about current childcare trends to make them ridiculously hard to argue with.

BettyandAuntSaraI’ve also received several compliments on my hair and my new boots. And everyone has congratulated me on my book.

It’s basically like having an affectionate visit with both the super-positive and specifically negative voices in my head. And heading into a week of feminist topics, I do wonder about the culture of slamming and complimenting that defines my family. Since Betty won’t be spending the majority of her time with them, I wonder if she’ll have a difficult time adjusting when she comes out here for visits. California is very lovey-dovey, and it’s a little hard to go from that to people telling you point blank that you’re not getting enough exercise (and conversely that you’re not eating enough if you’re skinny).

It always takes me a few days to adjust to it when I get home. My self-esteem takes a plummet, but then it always seems to come back stronger than ever. I credit my family for making me sensitive enough to be an artist, but thick-skinned enough to keep at it. I also credit them with making me a little meaner than I want to be at times and always being able to find something to laugh about even at the worst of times. I’m still a little surprised that they had and have as much influence over me as they do, despite the fact that I’ve now spent almost half my life living far away from them. They’ve always forced me to either cave or decide to do things my own way and I’ll always be grateful for that.

But this all makes me wonder what Betty will credit her family with when she gets to be my age. And I also want to know how  your family has influenced your life and personality? Let us know in the comments.

And come back tomorrow for our Feminist series, starting with Ain’t I a Feminist? on Tuesday, The Beautiful Feminist on Wednesday and My Feminist Top Three Things To Do Tomorrow on Thursday.