I grew up in a small Texas town, in a middle class neighborhood. I got plenty at Christmas and birthdays definitely made us feel spoiled. There was a lot to be thankful for. I have memories of staying out until the street lights came on during the summer, and playing for hours with neighborhood kids without our parents worrying too much about if we were getting in trouble. I had a good childhood. A happy one.
But, it was far from perfect. In fact, there was a lot about growing up that was less than ideal. There was a lot of yelling. There was instability. There was shame, and embarrassment, and there were fights that weren’t hidden from friends that came over. There were financial problems, and marital struggles. There were kids talking back and parents trying to hold it all together. There were hurtful things said and done, and lots of mistakes made. Damaging mistakes.
My siblings and I have all ended up in therapy at one point or another. We’ve all had to heal in our own ways from an imperfect childhood. I’ve shed plenty of tears over just wanting a “normal” family.
Even as an adult, I cry sometimes about the broken-ness we all still are reeling from well into our adult years. I see the effects of that imperfect family spilling into my own family I’ve created. As much as I try to break patterns, start over, and ignore what was, the reality is that it’s a huge part of who I am, and I love the broken humans I was raised with and raised by. I do. I love them, even though it’s hard to because we all have our demons we’ve fought or are currently fighting, and as a result, we all still hurt each other.
Despite the past, we are still hurting each other. Each of us are healing in our own way. Some of us are further along on the path than others, and some of us don’t want to go down that path to healing at all. Some of us are stuck in bad patterns and habits, and some of us just want to escape and pretend none of it is there.
It’s easy to shout out loud that we just want to be normal! We just want a REAL family. It’s easy to wish what could have been and to cling to some ideal childhood we could have had. It’s easy to say that we can’t possibly fix each other, so you might as well let go.
What’s hard is loving those that are broken. What’s hard is embracing the people in our lives that aren’t willing to change, because they really get it better than anyone else ever can or will. What’s difficult is forgiveness and being willing to love someone right where they are, even if they’re stuck, and you’re much further along on the path to healing from that imperfect family.
No family is perfect. But, I believe that for those of us that come from broken-ness, it seems like there must be a perfect family out there. Why we cling to that hope, I’m not sure, but it provides both a comfort to think about other families that have it all together, while simultaneously ripping us open because we didn’t have that.
I believe that no family is perfect, but I also believe that there are families out there that have it a lot more together than we do. But, does that make them better? More lovable? More worthy of being loved?
My answer is no. We have to at some point, realize that we’re not better than those that are stuck in the same patterns of escape, or abuse. Maybe we’re luckier because we’ve realized some answers sooner, but those people that we were raised with, or the ones that raised us, are still a part of who we are. No matter how much we try to pretend, or wish for another hand being dealt to us.
It’s easy to walk away. It’s easy to move on and pretend that those people aren’t a part of who we are today because we’ve come so far. It’s so much harder to love those that hurt us. To meet someone where they are stuck. To accept that your imperfect family is still your family, and you need each other in some weird way that might be hard to understand.
So, to all those that wish for a perfect family, I know what that feels like. It feels lonely, and sad, and sometimes terribly isolating. But, there is no such thing as a perfect family. It’s true. The key is to try to figure out how to love (if that’s even still possible) the one you already have.