Don’t Leave ’em in the Dust

I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that it is often very easy to run over people who care about you when going for your goals and dreams. Mostly, this comes down to family. For some reason, the most important people in the world to us (and it’s a two-way street) are taken for granted. Now, some people may be amazing at making sure their parents and siblings don’t feel like doormats, and I commend that, and envy it. But I think for a lot of us, it’s something we’ve got to work on.

I’m no expert, of course, but here are some things you can do that I’ve come to see are good for everyone involved:

If you’re away, call home. At least once a week. You probably cannot imagine how much of a difference that makes, but it does. I know in the past my family has felt like I’ve just run off and forgotten about them. This helps such misunderstandings.

If you’re at home or at least in the same town, set aside time for your family, and organize special things, too. Dinners, board games, movie nights. Dinners are especially good ideas. There’s nothing like the whole family sitting down for a couple of hours to chow down and converse, just like when everyone was little, except now the conversation can be more sophisticated. Maybe. Plus mom more than likely appreciates someone else cooking for a change.

Listen to your parents. Uh-oh, I just hit a sour note, didn’t I? Seems to me nobody these days wants anything to do with what their parents have to say. Even though most of us are presumably past the “my parents are embarrassing” stage, I think what has actually happened is that the emotion has morphed into “my parents are stupid interfering busybodies.” But here’s the deal: you want them to respect you and your opinions and lifestyle, right? Then respect theirs. Listen to what they have to say, whether it’s advice, a plea to be home for Christmas, whatever it happens to be. This doesn’t mean you have to be compliant, but at least consider it; don’t automatically reject everything they say as BS. Your parents care about you more than you could possibly understand, will always be there for you, and truly want the best for you, always. Besides, it’s really probably a bad idea to assume you know more about life and the world than someone more than twice your age. Nobody’s perfect, we all know that. But your parents were made your parents for a reason. And don’t forget to show them you love them (see the two above paragraphs).

Set a good example for your younger siblings. I am the oldest in our family, and unfortunately I will never be able to understand how entirely influential my existence is to my younger brothers. Sometimes they tell me, or it comes out in their actions. I’ve done what feels like a million horrible things, most of which they know about or have found out about. From watching friends my age who have older siblings, it’s harsh. On the one hand, when that older sibling does something not entirely commendable, like starts smoking or drinking excessively for instance, that younger sibling feels very distraught. But at the same time, something happens in the psyche: part of the younger sibling looks up to the older sibling forever loyally, feeling like the older sibling can do no wrong. So when the younger sibling gets older, he or she might justify the same actions by “my older brother/sister did it, so it can’t be that bad.”

This is hugely important. You don’t want your younger siblings to overdose on heroin and die just because you happened to snort cocaine a few times, do you? This may sound extreme, but I have some pretty nasty stories of similar occurrences. It’s a big deal. And really, if you don’t want your younger siblings to ever be doing the things you try to keep hidden from them, then you probably shouldn’t be doing them either. Just sayin’.

Also, if you are a younger sibling, make sure to constantly let your older siblings know how you look up to them. I can attest that it certainly helps if that older sibling is doing something not-very-admirable.

So, dear readers, always remember that your family is your most intimate set of friends. They are not your worst enemies. In the end, they are going to be there for you and love you unconditionally above any friends you may at present regard higher.

Now, go hug those family members and tell them thank you for putting up with you.

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