• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Family Choices and Holidays

Anticipating a visit.


December 14, 2014

As I have mentioned here before, I come from a long line of people, on both sides of the family, who disown each other for religious or political reasons. Both my father and my maternal grandfather were from large families, but the only family I knew growing up were my parents, my brother, my maternal grandparents, and my grandmother's sister and her husband. I even lost my parents for a while — they didn't speak to me for two years because I stood up for my brother's then-girlfriend when my mother judged her a "whore" because she had a child out of wedlock.

These experiences shaped me in a number of ways. For one thing, the only way to survive all of that rejection was to not care so much if anyone liked or approved of me. For another, I have never considered myself a member of any tribe. I have no use for patriotism or any other sort of loyalty that relies on a shared heritage or belief system. These things feel dangerous and damaging to me.

So, the experience of partially reintegrating myself into my father's family, thanks to the efforts of one of my very patient and persistent cousins, has been a bumpy road. She first reached out to me when I was pregnant with Ben. She had a three-year-old, and she wanted the boys to know each other as they grew up. I reluctantly agreed to meet, but I can't say I was particularly interested or warm.

She is lovely, though, and so is her family. There are odd similarities, in both our appearance and our history. Her husband, like mine, is Jewish, and, like me, a psychologist. Neither her husband nor their son is involved in comedy performance, but if they were, they would kill it.

It took me a long time to claim them as family. For several years, I rebuffed offers to get together over holidays, preferring to travel with Bill and Ben. I thought of them, and treated them, as nice people who didn't have much to do with my life, and I know this confused and hurt them. Then, several years ago, I realized I had been waiting for them to abandon me, and it wasn't going to happen. So now we are real family, along with my brother and his wife and kids, and my cousin's husband's cousin, who lives near us and with whom I hang out even when our mutual family isn't here.

They will arrive in the city on the 22nd. I can't wait.

I hope you have a wonderful season, whatever you do or don't celebrate, and whomever you consider family.


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