For a long time, Americans lived under the idea that families were at there best if they resembled the “Leave it to Beaver” model of the 1950’s. (Okay, young’uns, Google it if you’re clueless.) This TV family had the hard-working father, the stay-at home mom, and two kids. Things were perfect, and all of their troubles could be solved within 30 minutes. There were many other shows that tried to remind us of how families were supposed to be: The Cosby Show, Eight is Enough, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties … you get the idea.
With this influence, children of the ‘70s grew into the ‘80s and ‘90s thinking that if they didn’t have a two-parent home they were “dysfunctional.” If they didn’t have a happy home they were “dysfunctional.” If they weren’t close to their siblings they were “dysfunctional.” After all, June Cleaver never had an alcohol addiction, and Cliff Huxtable never abused his kids. (Did they?)
Fast forward to the 1990’s and talk shows like Jerry Springer, Sally-Jesse Raphael, and Oprah are played in between the reruns of “The Cosby Show” and “Leave it to Beaver.” I hate talk shows, and I’m sure we all know why. But, talk shows did have one redeeming quality: they showed images of the average american family to the average american family TV audience. Millions of Americans, who thought they were part of “dysfunctional” families, started to realize that MOST American families are dysfunctional.
Since we all know more dysfunctional families than we do “perfect” ones, I argue that dysfunctional is the new normal. Got an alcoholic in your family? That’s normal. Hate your brother? That’s normal. Gay people in your family? That’s normal. Raised by only one parent? That’s normal. Your sister got pregnant at a young age? That’s normal. Both of your parents work? That’s normal. Fight with your mother a lot? That’s normal.
I’m sure you know more people in the situations above than you do Leave-it-to-Beaver-type families.
It took a while, but now I think that America has abandoned the idea of the “perfect” family. We see that families are made up of the people who take an interest in your welfare, not the people who are linked to you by blood. Which brings me to my family … specifically, my mother on this mother’s day.
Like most, my relationship with my mother has had it’s ups-n-downs. When I was a child, I thought that my mother didn’t have her priorities in order. (Sometimes I thought she didn’t focus on me as much as she did other elements of her life.) As I got older, I came to understand that she was just doing the best she could under her circumstances. Can’t fault her for that … and if your relationship with your mother was similar to mine, you shouldn’t either.
As I prepare to go to Afghanistan, I know my mother is worried about me. She’s also worried about how Taj is doing while I’m gone. (She’s a GRANDmother, too, you know.) I can see that she’s trying to make up for all the missteps of my childhood by pouring extra love and affection into Taj. Can’t fault her for that, either. (Although I get PISSED off when she buys him a kajillion dollars worth of toys … When I was a kid, I don’t even recall being allowed to ASK for anything!)
Of course, Taj will never be without the love of the best mother in the world, Muna. I feel bad that I can’t be with Muna today … we would usually try to go out to eat some Indian food, and Taj and I would try to make a homemade card or gift for her. This will be the first time I can’t be there for her on this day. Sure, I did have flowers delivered, but that just because of the obligatory, Hallmark-holiday requirement aspect of Mother’s Day. Um, and, uh, because I LOVE HER! (She might be reading this.)
When I make it home from the ‘Stan, I will try to recognize my own mother and Muna more often, (and not just when Hallmark says I need to.) Happy mother’s day, ladies!