My husband is my family. My child is my family, and so is the one that's not been born. The one not even known yet, but for kicks and squirms that feel more like ping-pong balls rolling around in my belly. But so are my parents. His parents. Our grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, their spouses--they're family, too. We're supposed to be adults and not "need" our "extended" families. At least, somehow we get this idea from something ingrained in our society. Mexican society treats the idea of "extended" family more as how we would view the nuclear family, in many aspects. Kids move out of the house much older. Sick members or newlyweds can come and stay as long as they need to get their feet back on the ground. Family gatherings are long, frequent, expected.
My husband and daughter have been out of town for over a week...hubby went to visit his parents and relatives in Mexico and took Angelica along. I stayed behind really, isn't it every frazzled parent's dream? To have a few days awaaaay from the 24/7 chaos of family-with-a-small-child life?
Yes, it's been nice to have a "break", but I've spent most of my days outside of the house, since it's honestly a little too painful at times to have all of this silence wrapping around me in a place where Angelica's laughter bounces off the walls and the pitter-patter of her feet up and down the hall, along with shrieks of happiness normally abide.
And yet the stories of Mexico crack me up, as I realize that the bonds being nourished with her other side of the family are building blocks, helping to fully form who she is. She chats with her grandparents in English on Skype as she sings "Abuelito dime tú..." everytime she sees my father-in-law, a refrain from a popular children's song from Mexico: "Grandpa tell it to me..." which he replies "Angélica dime tú" (Angelica, YOU tell it to me). I would have never believed a two-year-old could tease, but they tell me that when she sees her aunt Magos (short for Margarita) she throws up her hands and says "Hola, tía MANOS" (manos=hands) instead of Magos, yet refers to her "correctly" when she's out of earshot. She chatters away about the chickens she's been feeding and the towers she's made of tierra. She impresses the neighbor children--older than her--as she "reads" to them in Spanish out of her beloved picture books, repeating the words that's she's heard her daddy pronounce over and over, knowing where they go by recognizing the images that correspond on each page. I marvel at her ability to blend right into this "other" culture.
But back to the empty house. I remind myself that they're with family. I pause and think--who is family? People have asked me this week when my family is coming home, and I must admit to feeling confusion at first--my mind would go to my parents and I would think Mom and Dad aren't out of town....oh yeah, they must mean Rufino and Angelica! It is embarrassing to admit, but I DO admit I have this fuzziness about family. Everyone else infers the obvious--my family is my husband and child--and I realize that this true. Yet, I still feel strongly attached to my "family of origin", as I know Rufino does, too--we spend a lot of resources in order to get him connected and able to visit his parents as often as possible, given the circumstances of being in two different countries.
When did becoming an independent adult translate into not needing the support and nearness of our parents and/or other significant "extended" family members anymore? Nothing like becoming a parent has shoved me into the world of "independence" and "adulthood". But I relish the times my daughter spends with her grandparents both near and far. I love going to my parents' house and having dinner together or just being together. Many times, quite frankly, I feel that I need it. I need them--their presence, their support.
Can I be both independent and dependent? An adult and also an adult child? A loving parent who needs desperately to be nurtured at the same time?
My family is coming home in two days, and I couldn't be happier in the anticipation to have them back. Yet I also am incredibly grateful that they could spend time with family. His family. Who is now her family as well.
I think the answer to my questions is YES. I believe that a family can function as a circle, one to wrap its loving arms around its members at different stages of life, one to support and form life at a young age, and strengthen those who belong to it. Its arc is then completed when we remember to return once and again with those who helped shape who we are.