Laurie DeYoung's children, Taylor, Paris and Graham
This week I’ve spent some time thinking about the roles we play in our families. My husband, Ed, and I recently took a few days to go back to Michigan and visit the places where some of our families still live and where we used to go on vacation when we were first married. It’s an important pilgrimage for a lot of reasons. Remembering where we came from is significant. When I was very young, my dad travelled quite a bit for his work and when he would come back home from faraway places he would bring little gifts for us kids. Reflecting back on it, I’m pretty sure they were picked up in the airport but it really didn’t matter because he was thinking about us. Now my kids are grown, but for some reason this time when we went back up north we decided to buy gifts for them. Our daughter Paris was kind enough to watch our three dogs while we were away, so we were grateful for that and wanted to remember her with a little something (a nice scarf and some fudge) but then as we were reminiscing we started thinking about our sons as well and so we found gifts for them too. Our oldest son Graham was the only one of our kids who wasn’t born in Baltimore. He was born in the same city his dad was, Grand Rapids Michigan. So, naturally we tried to get him something that fit the “Michigan” theme and if you know anything about that state you know it’s cold a good part of the year. So we got him a winter hat, he loves baseball caps and wears a lot of them but this is a more serious winter hat complete with ear flaps. No, it’s not plaid (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s a lightweight black hat made by Patagonia in the same kind of material you’d see one of their ski jackets made with. For Taylor we found antlers in a second hand shop that he could put on a wall in his house, he already has some so he’s established this kind of vibe on his own. When we got back to town we had a family dinner together and gave the kids their gifts, let me just say, I had no idea how much everyone liked antlers, even Paris coveted those. I knew instantly we should have given them their gifts separately. No one’s present was wrapped except Graham’s (simply because the store where we got his offered free gift wrapping). He unwrapped this hat and I stuck it on his head to see what it would look like. Graham is very funny and made this face like Kyle from South Park which of course sent us into hysterics. Now there’s a fine line between laughing with someone and laughing at them, I understand this deeply (I was teased a lot as a kid). After we got home we wanted to make sure he didn’t misunderstand our reaction so both his dad and I texted him. He responded back, “I have a tendency to make a joke of everything and I’ve always been a goofball I guess. I appreciate any gift you got me, I probably took the joke too far. Thank you for the hat, I’m sure I’ll wear it.” He will wear it, we know him. He is the one child we have who will wear the elf outfit at Christmas time when we’re opening gifts or the Santa hat when he’s playing percussion at our church during the holidays. He loves to make people laugh and he’s good at it. We don’t shower him with gag gifts on a regular basis nor did we think the hat we gave him was funny, it just looked practical and that’s another side of him that we know well. We all take on roles in our families, I think that goes back a long way. In my family, growing up, I tried to entertain my mom a lot, I think she often felt like a single parent with my dad gone so much and I could tell it wasn’t easy for her (she had four kids by the time she was 25). As we got older and my brothers started acting up/out she would get upset and I would try to make her smile or laugh to ease the tension in our house. I used to put on little shows at home, even plays I would make up. It’s no surprise that I ended up in radio, an entertainment business, at 19. It was my role to try and make people happy, make them feel better maybe even encourage them from time to time. But as much as we grow to understand the different roles we play in our homes while they can sometimes feel freeing they can also start to feel like a ball and chain, like maybe someone has put you in a box and can now only see you one way. We need to give each other grace and try to continue to broaden our perspectives on how we all view each other in our families of origin. What role/s do you play in yours?