Family matters

what makes a family bond tight? How do you keep that familial bond from loosening or breaking altogether?
Often DH will tell me that “his family is much more close than mine.” My children (the adult ones, obviously) don’t call me nearly as much as he calls his parents. He reports that they don’t give me the same level of “respect” that he gives his parents. Of course, he’ll never put his parents into an old folks home. He sends his family money from time to time out of gratitude. And, when an elder speaks, children obey…. well, kind of…. and this is where the rub comes in.

for all of DH’s “strong familial bonds,” his family knows very little about our “real life.” His family doesn’t know when we have an argument and what we fight about. His family doesn’t know when/if we have any financial problems. His family doesn’t know when we are frustrated by transportation, social issues, etc. If he feels belittled or disrespected by his family, he can’t approach the subject with them. Any disagreeable circumstance: an illness, a bad decision, encounters with a scammer, feelings of anger at someone in the family, a possible crisis, etc are all left out of their daily conversations. Now, of course, I can’t be for sure, I don’t speak Urdu enough or fluently enough to understand all that they are saying. But, I do believe DH when he says that he just doesn’t tell his family because …. (get this) “My mother would worry and get sick from all of the worry.” What? really????
In contrast, I talk to my mother about three times a week (and that is a serious upgrade from what it use to be). We don’t talk nearly as long as DH does to his own parents — “what are they talking about????? — who knows). But, I can tell my mother:
“Although it seems strange to us, I still shaved LO’s head.”
“yes, we argue about the lack of housework that he does.”
“OK, dh is a better saver than I am.”
“Last night we went to a Pakistani picnic and…..”
“No, DH has not changed another diaper yet.”
“Once I was careless and the baby fell and hit his head.”
“We’re discussing birth control, but don’t be surprised if Baby Boy has a brother or sister.”
“We had to pay taxes this year and the amount was ….”
“I love my daughter, but I worry about her spending so much time with that All-guy band.”
You get the picture. These are conversations that DH will not have with his family. So, I ask: how close are they really? It seems that they are “faking a strong family bond.” I have told DH, I want to know what my children are doing, even if I don’t agree with it. I’ll tell my son that I don’t agree with his loyalty to the military…. or my daughter for living together before marriage, or Mr. Basketball for sluffing off his classes and expecting to get a good grade by whatever means necessary … or the Drum Diddler (last son) for engaging in the consumption of illegal substances. I want to know the “real person,” not who they pretend to be for my benefit. I might not like their choices, but I at least know the truth. My mother asks my opinion: “Am I being selfish because I don’t want to bring one of my grandchildren along???” Now, I don’t use a “we are just friends” tone with my mother. I don’t chide her or berate her. But, I have a much more free conversation with her than DH does with his mother….. and I was just under the assumption that if he and his mother talked every day — sometimes for an hour or two — they must be bonded as mother and son. He must be able to share with her lots of things about his life and so on. …. … not true.
I think that our son will have the best of both worlds. We, … … or I, won’t shy away from him when discussions of social justice, sex, drugs, etc need to be had. Yet, we will raise him with enough respect not to use foul language when talking to us and never to think about putting us in a nursing home.
Still, just because a family talks on the phone two or three times a day does not automatically mean that they are actually “close.” There is so much more to discuss on this subject: levels of observing familial duties, familial roles, patterns of manipulation within families,and many more.

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2 Responses to “Family matters”

  1. American Punjaban PI Says:

    This is such a great post! I’ve heard the same things about how westerners are not close with their family and it’s just not true. Our bonds are formed differently. We hide things from our parents just like desis would and we choose what we share with them. Desi’s are more likely to rely on a blood and respect type bond while we rely on a personal type bond. Different but equally as good. It’s not disrespectful to discuss the bad or hard things with your family. Just as it’s not disrespectful to hide them if you’re uncomfortable sharing. These things are just different between us, not wrong.

    • jamily5 Says:

      Yes, agree whole heartedly! it just bothers me when desis say: “We are closer to our families than westerners.” sure, I believed it at one time, but no more.

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