“When I See Your Family I See the Perfect Family.”
Recently someone said this to me. I didn’t know whether to first laugh or apologize for giving such an impression. I do not intend to give the impression that we are the perfect family. In fact, in two of my books* I talk about our imperfections—including my parenting mistakes.
Our family has our share of disagreements, disappointments, and heartache. None of us are perfect. We are individuals, each with our version of how we want life to happen. Sometimes those versions bump up against each other. Having rough spots in relationships does not make us (or you and your family) a less-than family. It’s part of family life.
The pictures I share on social media are happy and fun. Yes, they are accurate, but they don’t show every part of our lives.
Our family is very much in process. We are growing as individuals and in relationship with each other.
After this person said to me that she thought of us as the perfect family, I spent the next two to three minutes trying to convince her we were not perfect. Then I thought Why did I do that? Because every time she saw a happy Garrison family photo on social media, she compared her family to ours. First of all, comparison is never helpful or based on reality. We never see the whole story in the other person’s life. And secondly, by comparing my family to hers she saw only the negative in her own. Comparison sets up a paradigm in which you will never measure up.
I love Maria Goff’s quote on comparison, “But the fact is, comparison is a liar. The way forward isn’t over it or through it; it’s simply to ignore it completely.”**
It’s easy to feel we must have things in our family the way we expect or else we can’t (really won’t) be happy. And it’s easy to think that other families do have it all together. They are always together for Thanksgiving. They live close by each other. Or maybe we get hung up on our child’s chosen career, who they are dating, or how they are raising their kids. This list could go on for pages.
Instead we need to make the best of the season our family is currently in. I love the attitude of one of my friends whose adult children who are scattered across the country. One day we were talking about how we love having our kids home at the holidays and at the same time and how sometimes that is not possible. She, being more well-adjusted than me, said, “Whenever they’re home it’s great!” I could tell she meant it. She had come to the place where she was thankful for and enjoyed the time she had with her kids no matter if it met her expectations or not. She gave up the expectation that their gathering needed to be a certain way or at a certain time. She did not compare her family to others, but instead embraced their unique circumstances.
We, too, can embrace our family’s uniqueness. When you are together pour into those relationships. Be thankful for your time together. Be fully present.
When you are not together nurture those relationships with texts, setting up phone calls or Skype, send cards in the mail (maybe even include a gift card of a small amount), whatever speaks love to that person.
The next time you’re tempted to compare your family to someone else’s, don’t. One key to being a happy family is realizing that each family looks different. Also, realize that your family and your gatherings will look different from year to year. Nothing stays the same. Let your expectations go. Enjoy the present.
**Love Lives Here, Maria Goff. Page 47.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.