I am finding out the hard way that I was wrong; family isn’t everything. I always told my kids that no matter what happened, no matter what we went through, no matter how much we may disagree and argue, we will always be family and we will always have each others’ backs. Ride or die. Blood will always be thicker than water. Or so I thought.
I didn’t spend much of my life with my extended family. I lived in Georgia for the first 9 years of my life, so I saw my aunts and my cousins on weekends and holidays. I have fond memories of those times, and I always felt like I was missing out on something by being a military brat. When you move around a lot, it’s hard to hold onto friendships and stay connected with family, especially in the days before texting and Facebook.
As my youngest child started to get older, I worried about her missing out on some of those memories, of family reunions and big family get-togethers. My older kids had cousins on the other side of their family, but my youngest didn’t. The only cousins she had lived in Texas and she’d never met them. So one of the reasons I had for moving down here was so that she’d get to meet and maybe spend time with her “cousins,” the children of my own cousins. And maybe I would get to spend time with my aunts and my cousins.
To put it nicely, things aren’t going as well as I’d expected. Growing up, I was closer to the three cousins that were around my age. Now one of them has severe mental health issues and is pretty much “lost,” one is a raging racist and extreme conservative bully, and another considers herself a member of the older generation (one of the children rather than one of the grandchildren.) The rest of them were a bit younger than I am, so they don’t really remember me from when we were kids and there’s not much of a bond there. Some of them, I genuinely like as adults. I don’t really interact with all of them enough to get to really know them. But I assure you, it’s not from a lack of effort. I have tried.
Since we moved here, I have reached out and tried to connect with family. I had them all over at my mom’s house for a welcome home/family reunion/birthday party (for my daughter). I’ve messaged them on Facebook, I’ve commented on their family photos, congratulated them on good news. You know what I’ve gotten back in return? Barely anything. One local cousin and one (geographically) distant one are the only ones that ever really have conversations with me. When my daughter’s father died, I didn’t get a single text or private message from any of them. (I do have two aunts that I am pretty close to who have been very supportive, and any references to “they” or “them” does not include those two.)
I’ve been deleted and soft-blocked by several family members now. (Soft-blocked as in not de-friended but privacy settings were changed so that I don’t have access to them. The only reason for that would be to keep your nose in MY life while keeping me out of yours. Otherwise, why not just de-friend me?) Apparently my posts about sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia are “offensive” and I’m “shoving it down everyone’s throat” even though 95 percent of my posts are about music, Wonder Woman, parenting, music, animals that need homes, music, jokes, BuzzFeed posts, and celebrity deaths.
I am now at the point where I’m done giving a shit. If one out of every 20 posts or so is considered “shoving it down their throats”, if asking that we treat people of all races and religions and genders with basic human decency and equality is “offensive,” then THEY are the problem, not me. I refuse to change how I communicate online to make some distant relatives who don’t give a damn about me feel better.
My family now is more about support than DNA. I have “family” all over the country and all over the world. I have people who have been there for me and my daughter when we needed help the most, many of whom I’ve never even met in person. They do not judge, they do not discriminate. That’s who I consider family. And, in that sense of the word, family IS everything.