As I walk through my hall in my dormitory, I see countless whiteboards hung on doors with countdowns to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the end of the semester. And every time I open up Twitter, someone I know is complaining about how stressed they are, and that the thought of going home for the holidays is all that is getting them through the semester.
So many times I have wished that I could share in on this excitement to go home and sit around a Thanksgiving table with my entire family and eat loads of homemade food that my mother would cook. But the reality of the matter is, that Norman Rockwell painting just isn’t in the cards for me. I don’t come from a perfect family that could be on the cover of the magazine. And although this may not be the case for everyone, I am not excited to go home.
I say this all not to mope in self-pity and cry about how I’m not “normal,” but rather, because I have confidence that I am not the only one in this situation, even though it often feels like it. And even though I do not feel “normal,” my rational self has come to the conclusion that in 2015, there really is no “normal” family and there is no reason for people to feel ashamed of that.
At my school, the holiday season means a Christmas tree in almost every academic building, with paper ornaments attached that have gift wishes for less fortunate boys and girls. Anyone can take one of the ornaments and buy a gift for someone. These ‘Giving Trees,’ are run by a club called Campus Ministry, and when, one of the leaders, a Priest, was trying to promote them to the students, he told us explicitly to go home over Thanksgiving and tell our moms what we need to buy for the person we picked.
While I realize this was meant as a joke, and probably wouldn’t even faze most people, small comments like these can really irritate those who either don’t have a mom, or aren’t close with their mother. And coming from a school official who was not a student and is clearly someone who people look up to, I found it insensitive and slightly unprofessional. I am not trying to create problems where there are none, but I do think the way we speak in casual conversation has the ability to significantly change the way people think about social issues. I believe that ignorance of non traditional families starts in small ways and mushrooms into bigger, more offensive blanket statements about how everyone has a mother waiting for them to arrive home from college with a plate of fresh baked cookies in her hand.
The fact of the matter is, not everyone has a supportive mother, just like not everyone has supportive parents. Quite frankly, not all parents were meant to be parents, and in fact, some outright shouldn’t be.
But general society neglects to recognize this — teachers, coaches, professors, popular TV shows and movies all too often have the tendency to promote the idea that all parents are supportive of their children, and that somehow all students have a support system to lean on. Not only is this offensive to kids that don’t have this support, but its also not even an accurate representation of American families. According to the Pew Research Center, less than half of all kids today have a “traditional” family.
In 2015, we seem to have abandoned all sense of the word “traditional” - we dress differently, we speak differently, we choose to text rather than to call, we date differently, we work differently than every generation before us. Why then, do people still try to believe that our families have not changed as well?
People in the spotlight need to become the leaders of a new movement that assures students that its okay to not want to rush home from college for the holidays. People need to be made aware that if you have a family support system, you are not like everybody else, you are of the lucky few. My hope is that varying types of parents and untraditional families will be accepted in society so that no child feels left out around the holidays. The holidays are most certainly a time to be with family, but they are also a time to be sensitive to the fact that family has multiple definitions.
Lead Image Credit: Thomas Leuthard