changing family traditions

It’s a holiday season. That means lots of time for movies. On one channel, they had a whole hour of trailers from movies about Christmas. I think I read once that more movies made about this holiday than any other.

This week has afforded me more time with family, and to think about family. I don’t blog about my family, as all of them have privacy concerns, or I think they assumingly do.

Family is family, and many do feel enough of a connection to made an annual pilgrimage home to visit, even though few families describe themselves as close. When the family gathers, there may be fond memories of rituals that are cherished as family traditions.

There are other family traditions too. The habits and patterns each of us revert to. Some love to play together; some cook and eat; some talk feelings and relate that way; some tell stories; some share their joys and fears; some listen to each other; some create drama; some debate for fun, some for fight; some graciously help each other grow and mature; some stay cordial and polite; some go shopping; some vacation together with each person doing their own thing.

I’m probably not alone in saying that I behave differently being around family than I am hanging out with a friend. (sometimes) I wish I could be as free being with family as I could be with friends. (A few people might have the reverse, feeling more free at home with family than with others.)

Somehow I’ve psyched myself out, thinking that if I behave the same with my family in the way I would with a good friend, my family might be offended, or not accept me and get rejected, or not get my sense of humor, or get uncomfortable, or. whatever… and it’s not like I run with a questionable crowd.

Let’s see what happens if I change my words and behaviors. Got a couple of days on this round. Let’s see what happens. I may report back, especially if I can get any of them to blog or twitter 😉

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16 Responses

  1. jdblundell says:

    Your dad looks pretty hip there with his popped collar.
    Fun pic!

  2. daniel so says:

    DJ — A belated Merry Christmas! Thanks for posting about this. Going home to my folks always causes me to examine myself as well — who I am, where I've been, who I'm becoming. There's that tension/interplay between “leaving your father's household” and being intimately connected to the family in which you were raised.

    In any case, as always, I appreciate the honest reflections 🙂

  3. Deef says:

    Quote from Eckhart Tolle:

    “Every role is a fictitious sense of self, and through it everything becomes personalized and thus corrupted and distorted by the mind-made “little me” and whatever role it happens to be playing”

    Traits of a close family?
    General acceptance (transparency, open-ness, forgiveness, resolved conflicts) and deep communication (honesty, presence/attention).


  4. djchuang says:

    @Deef, thanks for the quotes. i've heard that Tolle has become very popular, partly due to Oprah, and some have described his insights to be adapted from Buddhism.

    i suppose the above description of a close family is subscribed to by American culture. I know I do.

    What would be considered a close family in Chinese culture? Asian? African? Latin? Each may well have different concepts of closeness

  5. Deef says:

    Whether playing a role, saving face, putting on a mask, or presenting a certain image, they are all forms of dishonesty or deception. Sharing and knowing our true selves is messy. Things that look perfect and orderly are likely fake.

    I don't think there are differences of 'closeness' among different cultures. What might be percieved as a difference would simply be differences in communication methods (ie. ways of sharing/showing love). Underlying those differences would be universal traits of a healthy relationship for all human beings.

    As for what describes a healthy relationship, that would be up to each individual to decide. Some commonly accepted traits might be: trust, loyalty, transparency, honesty, concern, understanding, patience, recognition, accepting, communication, and predictability.

  6. phil says:

    thanks for the post. It is true, I behave differently around family too. I am not sure if it is because I just resort back to being a kid when I come home, or just because I don't thing they would understand who I am now that I am grown up. I guess as long as I am not compromising on anything. Anyway, thanks for the post.

  7. DC Chuang says:

    There are various ways closeness is expressed and there are different roles for different groups. Families tend to be there for you, accepting you, though having hopes and sometimes expectations for you, but eventually it is more or less unconditional – as much as humans can offer. I don't think they are always the source to share your deepest feelings and needs, it could be but isn't that what a spouse is for? I hear in the current culture, parents are trying to be best buds with there kids – at the expense of being their parents. Is this the Oprafication of America? Not to say you can't do both, parental roles do change as kids grow up, just be realistic and see it for what it is. We're in a culture where we are told we can have it all, do it all, be it all, have it now and it won't cost you a thing …

    On top of that add the dynamics of the Chinese culture where closeness is typically demonstrated through actions & not so much verbalized and shown in emotions. In a discussion on Gary Chapman's love language book with those of Asian heritage, overwhelming most chose acts of service. This has morphed a bit with the American influence, however we are talking about a culture with five thousand years of development and traditions. Though there are things to be appreciated in how things are done in the West with expressing oneself et al, it often gives way to superficiality and focus on self. Understanding this and seeing that actions speak louder than words, there is much to appreciate in this more subtle form of closeness.

    Anyway, some thoughts on how I have seen closeness manifested in our version of the Chinese family here in America: acceptance, support, spending quality time not as an obligation, calling when you don't need something, unconditionally there to help & be there without having to ask, understanding your roles & responsibilities, thinking of others first, not wanting to inconvenience others out of consideration for them, concerned for each others well-being, demonstrated through action and less through words & emotions.

  8. Cynthia says:

    So much explained. You were raised on an orange futon, I take it.

  9. djchuang says:

    @DC, thanks for your comments. In a global village, and for us who are bi-cultural, we're poised for cross-cultural contexts and can develop multi-cultural competencies. In a more holistic sense, we can have the genius of the both/and, live out both traditional values of deference as well as progressive values of freedom and individual expression, both inferential and explicit communications, respect for elders and the egalitarian worth of every person.

    I'm not clear on how “self-expression gives way to superficiality”. Wikipedia describes “superficial” as “being shallow, materialistic, and … display of emotion which is not necessarily genuine.” Care to clarify?

  10. DC Chuang says:

    In regards to superficiality, was contrasting action vs. talk, such as closeness demonstrated through what you do rather than what you say or emote. It's like faith, to be genuine there needs to be actions that correspond with it. Individual expression is fine, but to communicate effectively, there needs to be considerations for others.