Where I grew up in Hawai'i, family was everything. My classmates lived with their parents, siblings, grandparents. Grown-ups were Auntie and Uncle, your friends were your cousins. When I moved to California as I was just entering my teens, it was a different world. I still don't know my dad's neighbors, heck, I don't really know my neighbors! I called my friends' parents Mom or Dad or Auntie or Uncle, to confused but sweet looks. People get offended when they ask and I tell them I'm not actually related to my cousins.
Like any good American kid though, I fought my parents, I convinced myself that I had the hardest childhood that anyone had ever, and now I find myself panicking over the day that my smiling baby boys turn into angry adolescents and disown their poor ol' mom. When my mom once told me that I should respect and lover her simply because she was my mom, I fell into hysterics. Earn that shit, mama! Oh, the karma that will come bite me in the ass. I need to invest in some thicker jeans. This seems to be an almost uniquely American, or at least 1st world problem. Immigrant families I know are as alien as Jupiter when it comes to family closeness. In America, instead of thinking of our parents as home, they are something we should leave as soon as possible.
Instead of being the ever glowing North Star in our lives, our families are the catalysts that fucked us all up right proper. You treat women badly? Your mama was too weak willed. You have bad taste in men? Daddy complex. You can't hold a job? You were too spoiled by your folks. Everything that is wrong with us is our parents' fault. Duh....right?
There is a giant piggy bank, filling with the hard earned pocket change from moms everywhere who buy parenting guidebooks, classes, anything to keep us from becoming the dysfunctional parents that we know we are. But what are we doing so differently than our grandparents, great-grandparents, and mamas and papas the generations before that? Not too much, really. I don't think it's just us that are supposedly destroying our families. We're really not the only driving forces in their lives.
My husband and I recently moved our little brood to a mountain town of about 3,000 people. When you go to the store you know the owner, you know the guy in line behind you, you wave at people that drive by on the street even if you've never seen them before. In the metropolis where I spent my California youth, I got harassed for smiling at strangers, I got cursed out for talking to little kids that weren't mine. I don't want the sparkle and shine of that cement shitstorm for my own kids. It's incredible the difference that environment has not only on the little ones, but on the family unit itself. My family values are primarily formed by the tight-knit, farm-bred family I have in the Midwest. Nowhere feels more safe, more like home, than there to me, even if it was only holidays and summers that were spent there. That is what I want my kids to feel.
I don't know where we're going to fully settle yet; my husband dreams of 100 acres in Montana but has never left California, I miss white Christmases and swim-suits filled summers but have always stayed semi-urban for work. We both want to stay away from the dredges of suburbia though, for the sake of our sanity, and the sake of our kids. We want to be heroes, not villains to our children, and finding a community that embraces that is a difficult must.Do your kids affect where you live? Do you see where you live affecting your kids?