I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was thinking about making some major life decisions without telling her family about it. She knew they would disapprove and she didn’t want to deal with them. She justified it by saying that she believed in what she was doing and just wanted to do it and tell everyone later.
This is a tough issue. There is great tension between wanting to be independent, to be your own person, to make your own decisions and your responsibility to your family.
After 25 years of having to figure out what to share and not share with my family, it’s still a tough call each time. I know that I don’t want to have to lie to my family so I try not hide things that I’ll have to lie about to cover it up but at the same time I don’t tell them every detail about my life. It’s one thing to get a tattoo that you never tell mom about because hopefully she’ll never see it. It’s quite another thing to elope and move out of state saying adios to the family through your rear view mirror as your drive away.
But having to hear them talk and talk about why they don’t like something that you believe in wholeheartedly can be sometimes hurtful. Usually, though, it is just downright annoying.
Years ago, Brandon and I were dating when he graduated from college and his brother gave a super-generous graduation gift of a trip to Rome for the both of us. Of course, I told my parents about it right away but the idea of telling La Lupe had to sit for a while. I, for sure, knew that she was going to have a problem with it. I could just not tell her and tell my mom not to mention it and no one would know any different. I wouldn’t have to lie about it because no one would ever ask if I had gone out of the country recently. It was a pretty clear way out of a finger-wagging lecture.
But it has always been La Lupe’s dream to go to Rome and see el Papa. Could I really not buy her a souvenir blessed by the Pope? Could I really not show her pictures of a place she always dreamt of but will never be able to go? No, I decided, I have to tell her.
So I told her and the lecture about the inappropriateness of traveling with a boyfriend and no parents was pretty long. After we were done talking I went into the kitchen where my aunt laughed at me, “Ness, I know that face. It’s the oh-crap-I-knew-I-shouldn’t-have-told-grandma-that face.” And she was right. The second I opened my mouth I had wished I had just not said anything.
But you know, it was a big deal and I wanted to share it with her because that’s what you do with family. You share important stuff.
Yeah, family can be wrong, judgmental, and biased sometimes but sometimes they are a good gauge for your actions. If you are marrying a guy that they are 100% against because they think he drinks too much or because they think he doesn’t treat you right, they may have a point. If they don’t like him because he spits a little when he speaks or has bad hair, ok, you don’t have to put too much stock in what they are saying (not that they think this about Brandon, just an example). But it is important to recognize the difference. And if I were to never tell my family anything then I can’t really learn how to appreciate this difference.
In the conversation with my friend, it was hard to give advice either way. These decisions are difficult for anyone and none of us can claim to be an expert, especially me. But when it comes down to it, I have to ask myself: Is it worth it to not tell my family? Is it worth the pain and anger I might cause them if they find out anyways? Is it worth having to remember to leave it out of conversation when talking with them? Is it worth having to exclude them from parts of my Facebook profile? Sometimes the answer is yes.
But then I have to ask a follow-up. Am I just scared? Scared of what they are going to say? Scared that they might be right? Sometimes the answer is yes, too. Then I should probably tell them.