Families are Hard Work!

When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them.  ~George Bernard Shaw

The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.  ~Erma Bombeck

Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.  ~Author Unknown

The thing about family disasters is that you never have to wait long before the next one puts the previous one into perspective.  ~Robert Brault

If minutes were kept of a family gathering, they would show that “Members not Present” and “Subjects Discussed” were one and the same.  ~Robert Brault

I’d like to start off this post by saying that I am not offended or annoyed with anybody in my family.  However, today I was reading over my General Conference Ensign and marveling at all of the talks about families.  While each talk was inspired in many ways the speakers often seem to be talking about an alternate reality where all children behave, family quarrels never escalate and feelings are never hurt.  I understand that the brethren have to preach the ideal but still it sometimes amazes me.

Families are hard work.  It is hard to mesh personalities, goals, lifestyles, addictions, habits, interests, etc together.  Maybe some families have members that behave, live and believe exactly the same way but in those cases they probably have been translated by now!  Every family’s challenges are unique, just as every family member is unique. It is easy to judge a family and think their life is perfect but trust me we all have issues and stressful situations.

I honestly think one of the hardest things about families is getting everyone to mesh and enjoy one an-others company.  Growing up I often felt like an odd ball in my family because Megan and Ben shared more common interests than I did.  Then Anna came along and I had a family member who saw the world through a similar viewpoint.  I remember feeling her presence in the family was a comfort and relief.  Since then Megan and I have become super close- talking on the phone most days.  She is my strength.  Ben and I, while still very different, have gained a love and respect for each other over the years.

One of the challenges in my family is unifying a group of siblings that spans 20 years.  My parents have done an amazing job gathering all of us whenever possible and encouraging, even forcing us on occasion, to build our relationships.  I can say with pride that I am close to all of my younger siblings and know our relationships will only grow as they get older.

I’ve often wished that as a young woman I had learned a little bit more about how families really work.  We got a lot about the joy of motherhood, temple marriage, eternal families etc (which is great).  Wouldn’t it be even better to occasionally have a lesson on communicating effectively, resolving conflict, budgeting, stress management, and proper listening?   I think my leaders were sometimes afraid to scare us away from having families and getting married; however, I believe such lessons would do the reverse by providing a context for the stressful situations in a family and giving us tools for making things better.  Once you see that a family can be strengthened  and improved it is empowering!

It is also fascinating to see the weird things that family members have in common.  For instance, Ben and I both love the book Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy ( a very weird book but love it).  My entire family thinks Patrick McManus and the movie Better off Dead are funny.  We also love philosophy, reading, Letters from a Nut and the Simpsons (A family in Utah liking the Simpsons-scandal!). My mom and I love debating politics (although she’s come over to my side through the years!). Anna and I love indian, thai food, David Archuleta, and going to concerts/plays.  My Dad and I work together and are both workaholics (bad combination!). Megan and I will call each other when we finish any book and report on how we liked it.  We also both love writing and have always been letter/journal writers. Despite our 2 years age difference we have the unique bond of sharing a room growing up, playing for hours together, going to college at the same time and even going through the temple together.  Sam and Madeline both have my love for games and movies (they honestly see every movie!).  I could go on and on.

I love my family.  As a single person some may think I do not have one but despite living far away my family is involved in my daily life.  I really do talk to Anna, Megan, Mom and Dad almost every day.  They give me guidance, comfort, friendship and most importantly love.  The best thing about my family is that we are open with each other and constantly have intelligent, interesting discourse.  I know I matter to the world because I matter to my family.  Living a single life it can feel like everything is very transient- friendships fade, careers transition, apartments change; but, when I send a card to my nieces or help Sammy with a problem at school I know that I matter and that I am loved.  As crazy as my family can be, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

10 thoughts on “Families are Hard Work!

  1. Rachel, as much as I enjoyed this blog entry, I’m a little offended that you didn’t include me in your family list. Don’t you love me?!

    Love, Suz

    1. Oh man. I knew I would offend someone. 🙂
      You are divine! I’m glad that I have you as my adopted little sister. Thanks for reading my blog. You read it more than many of my actual family members!

  2. I love your blog! Which is why I deserve an honorary position in the Wagner household. I’ll stop at nothing. I may even propose to Sam.

    1. Thanks. Hey fortunate is going to be the lady that catches Sam in matrimonial bliss. However, I think 13 might be a little early!

  3. I like the point you brought up about having lessons on the reality of families, beyond the topics of the joy of motherhood, temple marriage, and eternal families. I would agree that the idea really is not to scare the young women away from having families! I grew up with the ridiculous idea in my head that once I got married in the temple, life would be “happily ever after.” I call this delusional chick flick syndrome. For me, this unrealistic notion stemmed from far too many chick flicks as a teen, YW lessons that never went beyond the temple wedding, and growing up with parents who had a very good marriage. None of these things are bad things, but the combination of them simply left me unprepared for the reality of life after the temple wedding.

    That said, I love my husband and my kids and wouldn’t trade my life and family for anything! But, the time since my wedding has been very difficult in many ways and it took me quite a while (in fact, I am still learning) to realize that life was not meant to be easy, even when we make good choices and are surrounded by good people.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Sometimes I think we are scared to be real with teenagers. Instead of talking about the realities of life we speak in ooey gooey platitudes. We need to explain to them that part of the joy of being in a family is overcoming challenges and growing together.

      1. Yes, family life is hard, but oh so worth it! And much of what makes it so worthwhile is the “growing together” that comes from weathering life’s storms together.

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