[#write31days] Day 5 Family Ties

Welcome to Day 5 of #write31days! 

For more information check out the series’ page

Ending up completely exhausted and at the verge of burnout does not happen out of the blue or from one day to the next. It is a process with a lot of missing boundaries or missed opportunities to set them. So let’s take a closer look at what kind of boundary issues we can have in our lives.

The people we meet at the earliest stage of our lives is our family. They are closest to us, they love us, but they can also cause us a lot of hurt. Whether it is our parents who call all the time, our siblings who depend on us, or our own inability to let go. Of course, family also includes the extended family and their influence, but for now, let’s focus on the closest family members. 

The Parents
Your mom and dad are the ones who welcome you into this world, they raise you into adulthood, they observe as you take your first steps into your own life – whether you want it or not, you can’t not have parents.
Yet, the relationship is not always ideal.
I guess we all have some image in our minds when we think of the term ‘overbearing mother’ (or maybe smother?). A mom who won’t let her favorite kid go anywhere, who won’t take any risks. A dad who makes all the decisions simply because “he knows best”. Parents who have a really hard time seeing their kid off to university; an own apartment seems to be the same as cutting them off from their lives. As a child (or rather young adult) it’s really hard to explore your new life because you still feel bound and controlled by your home. 
This feeling does not necessarily end after a few years or when you have your own family. The ties of frantic parents calling after you and offering advice on everything and anything can reach way into your adulthood.

While some may complain about too much interference, others might actually appreciate a bit more family in their lives. Family bonds in a child’s life are formed from day one, and they are essential for a healthy emotional and spiritual development. A lack thereof will have longlasting effects on a child that are often underestimated.
Some will grow numb and close themselves off from their families. They set up boundaries to protect themselves from getting hurt – maybe even so far that they really struggle to trust anyone with a deeper relationship. I have talked to quite a few friends about this and it pains me to hear about their broken relationships with their families.
Some will continue to chase the attention they might never get. They change and conform and perform, without any luck. Every attempt will just leave them empty, disappointment, and hopeless.


The Siblings
Unless you’re an only child, you were automatically born into a hierarchy. Oldest child. The one(s) in the middle. The baby. And surprisingly, without ever really choosing it, each position comes with a certain role to fill. The more I think about my own position and talk to others about theirs, the more I am amazed how this is an unspoken fact and people just fall into place!
I am the firstborn in my family with two younger siblings. I have never officially claimed that position, but it does come with responsibilities. When we were younger I was the one to watch my brother and sister when the parents were out. I had to look after the money whenever we went out by ourselves. Until today I am the go-to person for advice or help.
Firstborns are the ones with responsibility, the middle ones are the wild and crazy ones, the youngest are the spoiled babies. So goes the saying.
What does this have to do with boundaries?

There is a time for children to be close to their parents and their siblings. There is a time to stay within the home and maintain that close community. However, there is also a time to leave and build a home of your own. This can get difficult if you’re too attached to your role in the hierarchy without ever setting any boundaries.
Firstborns will always feel responsible for their siblings and never really leave (I don’t mean you should stop caring, but you need to cut a few ties when you move out). Instead of building a life of their own and making new friends they come home often. Instead of stepping onto new grounds they rather hide in the comforts of the familiar.
Younger siblings will never take responsibility for themselves because they’ll always rely on some family member to fix it. They don’t feel confident nor challenge themselves to unleash their potential because they feel smothered by the ‘perfect’ older brothers and sisters. 

If you never step outside the role you occupy within your family, you’ll never discover new facets and depths that are still hidden in your self.

Think about your own family: How is your relationship to your parents? What position do you have in your family? What does your role look like in your family? 

Author: Katha von Dessien

Teacher. Believer in the Wilderness. Third Culture Kid. World Traveler. People and Food at the Table Lover. Writer.

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