Gotta focus on who's there, not who's absent …
I’m fearful that my son won’t have a relationship with his maternal side of the family. My side of the family is extremely disjointed, disconnected, unstable and siloed. I do remember a time when I was younger where we always had a house full of people. Everyone was welcome at Ma’s house (my great grandmother). She often took in distant cousins, friends of the family—everyone lived at 1924 W. Baltimore Street at one point or another. Our Saturdays were spent at Ma’s house talking, eating, crocheting and seeing all the family. And we talked about each other to each other’s face. The good ‘ole days.
Today, Ma’s house doesn’t exist. My son is vaguely acquainted with my family (as am I). It used to bother me tremendously as family is very important. I soon realized that just because something is important to me doesn’t mean it’s important to others.
The last time I truly felt supported by my family was when I graduated undergrad. Ma could barely walk and was sort of house bound. She got dressed, put on her wig, and made her way to the arena to watch me walk across the stage. My mother, my grandmother, my first and second cousins were all present. I didn’t feel like my typical abandoned self where I often grew to expect disappointment. I felt like real family—like Pinocchio must have felt when he said, “Wow, I’m a real boy.” It was amazing. I’ll never forget that day on June 8, 2004.
I often wonder how my son must feel as it relates to support. I never bring up the topic, but it’s more noticeable as he approaches age 10. Even when I look back before he was born, there was a lack of support from my family. At the baby shower, there was Aunt Becky and Aunt Monica. At his birth, there was Aunt Becky. Graduations, birthday parties, football games, award ceremonies, swim meets, babysitting, vacations, etc—Aunt Becky and Aunt Monica. When I compare that to the level of support he receives from his paternal side of the family, there’s a grave difference. For example, his football game just a few days ago had eleven paternal family members in attendance and zero maternal members. And every game prior looked the exact same.
After making several observations, I had to remind myself to focus on who is present and not who is absent. I also had to check myself. Often times, his paternal side shows up in droves and it doesn’t always look the way EYE want it too. For example, his uncle brought a boombox to the football game and it was pretty loud. His other uncle kept asking to be driven to the liquor store. His cousin cursed during a couple of plays. His other cousin’s nose was runny (given the pandemic, I assumed this made people uncomfortable). In my head, I was apologizing for them. As team mom, I was slightly embarrassed.
When I got home, I had a little conversation with God and asked him to forgive my judgment. Here I am complaining that no one supports him from my family and he has a ton of support from my husband’s family and that still wasn’t good enough for me. Go figure! His paternal family showed up genuine, exactly as who they are and guess what? That’s enough! They were happy to be there. They were excited and really dialed into the game. And it was oh so loving. What a shame to be consumed with how others might view them. I am glad I recognized this and corrected it immediately.
As for my family showing up, we can only pray that they realize how important support is. That pat on the back is critical and it helps foster relationships in the future. As my son grows, he won’t feel weird hugging a maternal aunt he’s never met or telling her he loves her, genuinely. He won’t have to turn to me and say, “Mommy, who is this lady?” My response: “I don’t know her either.”