I must admit am a pessimist. I worry about the worst case scenario happening. I am happy to say I am usually wrong, though. You would think that I would have sufficient evidence by now to be more optimistic about things, but that hasn’t happened yet.
I was really worried during our recent trip to my father in law’s funeral. Husband comes from a blended family with two full siblings and their spouses, three step siblings and their spouses, and various married children and their spouses. We all have traditionally got along pretty well, but for some reason I was worried about all Hell breaking loose when everyone was together en masse for the first time in 25 years. My training as a psychologist causes me to hypothesize about future behavior, and I focus on negative possibilities.
We have a Trump-loving NRA fanatic, two Bipolar Manic types (one of whom refuses to take medications), some who drink too much, someone with a pain medication addiction, a hoity toity, self appointed manners expert, several evangelical conservative Christians, ELCA Lutherans, and several liberal Democrats. What could go wrong when everyone is upset over a death? Plenty, in my pessimistic mind!
Well, I was completely wrong. Everyone was pleasant, no one drank too much, and no one was manic. The NRA supporter was so angry about the scandals at the NRA headquarters he could hardly speak about it, and religion and politics and manners critique took a holiday. Phew!
When have you been wrong? What are you pessimistic or optimistic about?
I live pretty equidistant from about three Indian reservations in three different states. I sometimes see tribal members at my community mental health agency. Part of doing my work is getting a good family history. I have noticed, over 30 years of practice, distinct differences in how tribal members and everyone who is not a tribal member describes family relationships. For my tribal clients, there are any number of aunties, uncles, sisters, and brothers who are important in their lives. They just don’t match how I, in my eurocentric orientation, define family.
A good friend of our, a person who is an Arikara Indian, one of the Three Affiliated Tribes from the Fort Berthold Reservation where Husband works, posted on Facebook recently a way to navigate these family relationships.
This apparently comes from some sort of Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribal handbook. Here is how you navigate relationships. for boys. Girls are pretty much the same.
Who is my mother?
- My birth mother.
- .My mother’s sister
- My father’s brother’s wife
- My clan father’s wives (My father’s clan brothers)
Who is my father?
- My birth father
- My father’s brothers
- My sister’s husband
- My father’s mother’s brother
- My clan fathers (My father’s clan brothers)
- My father’s sister’s son
Who is my sister?
- My blood sister
- My father’s brother’s daughter
- My sister’s daughters
- My female clan members (My mother’s clan)
- Female children of my father’s clan
- My mother’s sister’s daughter
Who is my brother?
- My blood brothers
- My father’s brother’s sons
- My sister’s son’s
- My mother’s sisters’ sons
- My clan male mothers
- Male children of my fathers’ clan
- My mother’s brother
- My mother’s mother’s brother
Who is my auntie?
- My father’s sisters
- My father’s sister’s daughter-each generation
- My clan aunts (My father’s clan sisters)
Who is my grandmother?
- My mother’s mother
- My mother’s mother’s sister (Grandmother’s sister)
- My father’s mother
- My father’s mother’s sister
- My mother’s father’s sister-each generation
I notice that great uncles, great aunts, and cousins are defined differently here. I also find that if I use this to define my family relationships, I have a lot more siblings, parents, and aunts and uncles. That is kind of comforting.
How do you define family? How would your definition change given the above information?
After my father-in-law’s funeral last week, Husband and his two siblings divided up the memorabilia. There was no quarreling or hard feelings or difficulties. Husband got lots of photos, an Ohio State sweatshirt, an acrylic painting of willows on the Sheboygan River that his mother had done years ago, and two beer steins that his dad and stepmother had bought in Germany and Austria.
We decided that our son should have the steins. He was back at the hotel when all this dividing up happened, and when we got back to the hotel I marched up to his room, a stein in each hand, knocked on the door, and enthusiastically announced “Bier Her!!” A total stranger answered the door. I was at the wrong room on the wrong floor! The middle aged female occupant was very nice about it, and we laughed, but my did I feel embarrassed.
Tell about a time you were embarrassed. Any interesting stories about dividing up things after a funeral?
My company does a fun summer program that includes concerts out on the big lawn between two of our buildings. On Thursday it was Chris Kroeze. As I was tapping my toe I noticed a toddler towards the front of the crowd, not more than four. His folks and younger sibling were sitting on the grass behind him but there was no sitting for him. He had a small electric guitar (probably not real) and he was wailing on it. Non-stop. And he had moves; he looked like he would have been right at home up on the stage. I stayed out on the lawn for about 30 minutes and this kid was playing his heart out the entire time. I thought about going over and introducing myself and asking his name, because I’m sure in 15-20 years, he’s going to be famous and I would be able to say I knew him when.
Have you ever met a famous person? Was it what you expected?
I read with a great deal of amusement about the redheaded two year old who drove his electric John Deere tractor to the Chisago County Fair. He made the national news and it was a relief to see something fun in the media for a change.
He is certainly an enterprising youngster, and I am glad his adventure was a safe one. I only hope this isn’t something that people bring up for the rest of his life.
I hope there are other, more edifying things that will define him. It would be terrible to be branded as a wild man at age two.
Tell about your experiences at the fair.
On Tuesday afternoon I stopped at the library and it started to rain a bit right then. As I was leaving, I was behind a young mom and her daughter, who was maybe 7 or 8. As they reached the end of the covered portico, the mom said “It’s sprinkling a little. There must be a rainbow somewhere.”
Most people would say “run quick to the car” or “let’s get home before it really starts”, perfectly acceptable. But I was struck by this mother’s wonderful way of looking at life. It there is rain, there must be a rainbow.
What adage would you like to live by?
It was a gorgeous day for the zoo. Lots of young families. Lots of strollers. Big strollers. Double-wide strollers. Holding lots of stuff. I guess the world has changed but when Baby and I went out and about, I used a narrow umbrella stroller, put a couple of diapers and a ziplock w/ some wipes in my purse, filled up a sippy cup and off we went.
Apparently these days you need considerably more to venture out into the world: multiples sippy cups (and strollers have sippy cup holders built in now), bags of animal crackers, apple slices, cookies, cheerios, large containers of wipes, massive numbers of diapers, toys, towels, changes of clothing for the little ones. I’m sure there is more needed, but this is just what I saw with my own eyes. And that’s just the stuff for the kids. Parents need bottles and cup holders and snacks as well.
On a busy day, all these strollers full of stuff take up a LOT of room at places like the zoo. I wholeheartedly encourage families with young kids to enjoy places like the zoo, but do they really need so much STUFF?
What kind of of stuff do you need for an outing?