My wife has half siblings – a brother and twin sisters. We haven’t spent much time with them. They came to our wedding, and Candice’s wedding. We went to their mom’s wedding, and have hung out with them a few times beyond that. Haven’t hung out with them more than a handful of times, but they are family. I love all of them as if I’ve known them for forever. They are family. They are a part of my life, and love them all. Billy and Megan live in California with their grandparents (actually, Billy is on his own), and Mallory lives in Florida with her mom. I got to hang out with Mallory yesterday, and she looks so much like Danielle.
Because they all had the same dad as my wife, in many ways they all look like her. They are all built like Danielle. Seeing Mallory yesterday was what it would have been like to see and know Danielle years before I met her. It was so awesome to hang out with Mallory. It was like having a little sister all over again. I love that girl.
It’s amazing to me that I feel a strong sense of family and love for them – even though I haven’t hung out with them. I have identified them as family. There’s nothing I can do to not make them family. They’re stuck with me. The bond of family is strong. They are a part of my life. They are a part of my identity. I have a half-sister in law that lives in Florida. She’s pretty awesome.
Here’s a picture of her. Check out how much she looks like DC.
It is an exercise that I assign to my students in order to learn from them. It’s a great activity, and I have made literally hundreds of students do it. I remember many of them, and they’re pretty easy to facilitate. Basically, a student will take students from the class and have them play their family members – and they sculpt their family using the students from the class in a way that represents their perspective of their family when they were 10 years old.
I am currently teaching a course where I have assigned this exercise. I showed them my family sculpture – of my in-laws. It was rather fascinating. I chose my wife’s family because I have a new niece that has become the center of the family, and I wanted to see how I would set it up in light of my new niece.
Typically, I warn my students about a few things. One, that they will communicate information about themselves and their families, but inevitably, they also communicate information that they don’t intend. Two, that as we make observations, we will make correct ones, and some that are way far off, but it’s not always easy to hear. Three, the emotions that you experience during the exercise is part of the learning.
I did mine today. I was blown away by the emotions and the thoughts that I experienced during the exercise. I learned about myself and my family. I have former students that came to class today that wanted to do theirs again.
How well do you know how you think about your family?
Our new students have arrived on campus. There is execitement in the air – because of the new students as well as the excitement that the new students bring. I have never seen students so excited to move in and make their beds. The past few days have been fun to watch them move in and interact with each other.
It seems that every event that we’ve done shows us so much about who they are and really who their family is. Amidst the excitement and exhiliration, I have been able to see the family stuff that each each student brings. You can think of them as full tuitions – as students – as young minds that have no idea what’s coming up. I watch them come, but one of the things that really caught me off guard this year was when they left. I recently posted about a beautiful love - seeing so many families say goodbye.
One thing that I realize (because I’m thinking through thoughts to blog) is this idea that with the hundreds of new students on campus – that they just bring their family “stuff” with them. Some of it I’ll get to deal with. Much of it they display for all to see. Some will keep it secret and will never share their family “stuff” which really tells you alot about who they are and maybe a little about their family. No matter where you go or what you do – you bring your family with you.
I just can’t think of a better title than that. Today was the day for new students to show up on campus and move into their rooms to begin their college adventure. It was an amazing day, and I can write about the day but I want to start with the most beautiful love.
I just watch a bunch of parents say goodbye to their babies. We had ring side seats to the drama of life – saying goodbye. There was the spectrum from kids that wanted their parents to leave – to parents that didn’t want to leave – and parents that wanted to leave their kids – and parents that couldn’t let go. What can I say? I don’t have kids and have no idea what they have to go through in letting their children go. One day I will know this, but for today, I was able to be witness to the most beautiful love – the love that a parent has for their child and the safety that a child has to leave in order to continue the journey. It was beautiful. I can’t describe to you how beautiful it is to see students and parents crying. It’s a beautiful love.
My sister in law is going to have a baby soon. We are so excited about it. It’ll be the first baby for my wife’s family. My wife is such an excited – aunt for Hazel. I am enjoying the festivities. I am enjoying the shopping for Hazel. I am enjoying the gifts, the furniture, the accessories of a baby. I am enjoying most of the conversation and I am enjoy the fact that it’s not yet me the most.
But ever the wanna be psychologist, I can’t help but think about Family Systems Theory that tells me the center of focus for the family will change. Hazel will become the center of it which is an awesome thing. I can’t wait to see how that will change the family. It will be so fun to watch Hazel run it all – well, it’s really going to be Candice that will be doing so.
Who’s the center of focus of your family?
My wife was watching Into the Wild tonight – the Sean Penn version of the story of Christopher McCandless. It was great watching it again. The first time I watched it, I just watched the movie to get the story. Typically, the second time I watch a movie, I process through some of the other stuff – psychological stuff or spiritual stuff or formational stuff.
As I watched the movie this time around, I was overcome by the idea that Christopher McCandless was looking for something – adventure or a journey or an escape. I’m not going to pretend that I know what he was looking for. Some would call him a cultural hero and others would say that he was stupid and suicidal. No matter what side of the debate you land on, one things for sure, he was processing through his formation. He was processing through his family stuff. He was processing through that fact that he and his sister Carine were bastard children.
What stood out to me this time around, was the heavy theme of the family stuff that he was dealing with. He had alot of family issues to process through – who doesn’t? But he was searching for happiness. The emotional abuse and emotional turmoil in their household was probably something that he didn’t want to be around much. I read that he traveled the country days before he started college. I was a wanderer and traveler, and he wanted to capture that same escape that he read about from different authors that had escaped society.
Anyway, I don’t claim to know the story well. It was a interesting movie. The thing that hit me tonight was this – who in his college career gave him the language or the cateogries to figure out some of his family stuff? Who gave him a voice and the freedom to verbalize his stuff? He probably didn’t even know how to? He probably didn’t even know how to. I really don’t know his situation.
My situation is such that I work at a college. I interact with tons of students that are processing through life and family. Some of them have experienced abuse – physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse. They are all unique students with unique family systems and family stuff. We all have them. I’m not saying that the school that Chris went to didn’t care – I just hope that students that come to SDCC will be able to find that. And I’m not saying that I’m going to be that person for everybody at SDCC. I know that there are enough out there that don’t care for me – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them. I hope that I can give a voice to some of my students that don’t even have categories for the stuff that they’ve experienced. My hope is that my students can find someone that help give them a voice – give them a voice to help them figure out their stuff so that they don’t have to go out on a stupid journey. We are all on an adventure and a journey – not knowing where we might end up or how we are going to get there.
If you need a voice and you need help to find one – look around and find someone around you that has the time and let them help you. If you are someone that can help give someone a voice – look around and find someone that needs it.