I recently posted about how relationships we choose and nurture run far deeper than those based on blood relation. My point was not that family isn’t important, but that family bonds have to be nurtured as well. Sharing genetic material does not serve as an excuse to treat other people badly.
It’s interesting to see how people react when they find out that you are, willfully and by your own choice, estranged from a portion of your family. For those who have gone through the experience of having a detrimental relationship with a family member and choosing to walk away from it, the responses are encouraging. For everyone else, the prevailing opinion is less supportive.
I came across this interesting blog post, and being the adult child who has broken contact with her parents, it was actually somewhat frustrating to read. The idea that the parents are generally right, that the choices a child makes which lead them away from their parents’ ideals are probably wrong, and that the secret to maintaining a relationship with children in such cases depends on the parents addressing the lapses in judgment in the right way are, well, somewhat infuriating. I read the example about the parents completely taken aback by their child questioning the existence of god and not wanting to follow their chosen path, and my heart went out to the kid.
The thing is, there are two sides to every coin. The sad stories of parents whose children have rejected their upbringing and left the nurturing fold of family to go ruin their lives are sometimes balanced on the flipside by the stories of fed up children whose parents set them on very narrow paths and had no tolerance for other ways of thinking or choices which fell outside their very small worldview.
In my case, I’m sure my parents tell their friends of a daughter who ran off to a liberal college and had her head filled with crazy ideas that led her away from god and family, despite the fact that they were nice to her partner and never disowned her. But I tell the story of parents who put more importance on their pseudo-religious political ideas than the wellbeing of their daughter, who think it’s fine to say hateful things about gay people in general as long as they don’t say it to my face, and who, when told that it isn’t okay to refer to whole groups of people as “them” like they are some sub-species of human, heap a nice dollop of racism on top of the hate sundae.
Another page on that blog says that estrangement is synonymous with alienation. That estrangement is essentially the replacement of love with cruelty. And I take issue with that. Distancing yourself from a relationship which doesn’t contribute positively to your life is never something we should shame someone for. Walking away from someone who claims to love you but doesn’t demonstrate actual understanding of what that means is not an act of cruelty. It’s not the removal or replacement of love. It’s an act of self care.