We all have that annoying Aunt Sally that we just can’t stand. The way she pinches your cheeks and the way Uncle Frank chews his food… We haven’t even talked about Aunt Susan’s kids…
All too often we have less than optimal family members, don’t we?
Take this typical Jewish auntie for starters:
Luckily not all our relatives are like that. Let’s think about the ones that make us smile and glad to be alive. Caring for family makes you a superhero.
1. Bringing Smiles to Those That Need It
As I write this I’m currently in Indonesia taking my exodus to spend time with family. I’ve got 30+ cousins on my mother’s side and 24 on my father’s and three nieces.
That’s a lot of people to love, and it’s a job I take very seriously. It’s one of the best ways in the world you can be a superhero.
Being able to make cousins smile is one of the biggest joys one can have. Just being able to throw around a ball or play dolls with them is something they don’t expect.
Since I’m in my 20’s, I’m a dinosaur to them. The fact that I’m willing to meet them where they are speaks to them. Being the “cool” aunt or cousin pays off. It’s much better for them to have a cool image of you from an early age as it can be harder to earn with time.
Gotta remember that each family member is a person that needs a smile.
2. Maintaining Family Relations
This is more nitty gritty part of it all, but we gotta talk about it.
A family isn’t just naturally happy all the time, it’s a group of imperfect people that need to be consoled, loved, and acknowledged. As a member of this unit, it’s a responsibility that those before us have carried.
As an Indonesian, I have to constantly be aware of cultural boundaries and expectations. When I meet family members, I don’t simply meet them, but I represent my branch of the family, my parents, and my upbringing.
I constantly have to bring honor to the family, and the more I fulfill that role I actually maintain the peace.
In any given group of people there is always going to be a certain amount of strain.
As a part of the group, it’s your job to be a breath of fresh air and get rid of tension. Sort of like being a massage therapist. You go towards the knot of muscles.
Is there someone in the family we don’t particularly like? Go over there and shake their hand. Strike up a conversation, even if they’re difficult as hell. I’d love to open up about family problems, but me discussing them only makes me more infuriated and reignites past situations.
Picking at scabs isn’t a good thing to do, even if it feels good.
3. Be a Role-model
Growing up in the states I was separated from family and didn’t know what it was like to grow up with relatives. To be blatantly honest, it left a void in my heart and is one of the reasons I care so much about family.
My loss became a benefit to everyone else.
As a child, I wished for relatives to randomly move to the states or visit and for someone to mentor me.
It never happened.
It doesn’t mean I became a bitter person that decided to go and live his own life. I make it a point to invest in the little ones of my family.
Role models are underrated. Am I right?
You may or may not know that I have a special relationship with one of my cousins (who is also American) and even started his stamp and money collection. I didn’t do it for brownie points, but I want him to know that I’m there for him. It’s an opportunity to show him and his younger brother that family is worth it. They aren’t the only ones though.
Gotta remember I’ve got other relatives, so that means spending time with them and bringing them places whenever time allows. Everyone wants a piece of you because you’re the cool older cousin. They need you more than you know.
My Uncle Dede used to play legos with me as a kid, my grandmother would bring suitcases full of goodies, my Dad would crack jokes and tell cool stories.
Being an older member of the family means you now get to play those roles! You get to be Santa Claus, the cool guy, the smartypants, and the jokester all in one.
In a way, that makes you a hero, their very own personal superhero!
4. Avoid Chronological Snobbery
The uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. – C.S. Lewis
Chronological snobbery. Think about that phrase and the implications it has for us in the 21st century.
Caring for family reminds you that your point in the timeline of the earth’s history isn’t the only one. It gives you a wholesome look at history. Your parents and grandparents have been in your shoes and made horrible mistakes, that you can completely avoid.
More than that, they’re actually superheroes in disguise, you just haven’t heard their stories. If you have, they probably told you at a time when you thought it wasn’t worth your time.
Superheroes know where they came from and where they’re going.
Personally, it’s not easy being told what to think, how to feel, or the fact that I don’t work hard enough. The fact is, our relatives come from a different age and time, but hearing their perspectives is wisdom and gold. We can filter out the good and take what we need.
Be a Superhero
Even after being here over a month, I still haven’t managed to see them all as I have family spread over three different islands and multiple provinces, but it’s totally worth it.
My cousins smile when they see me and run (in the other direction) but they know that I love them.
Taking up this role allows me to see them grow up. I get to tease them, watch them have recitals, attend church, and a multitude of other things that constantly bring me joy.
We all need a superhero. We can all be a superhero.