Do we ever escape our family of origin?

Last week I talked a bit about the first presentation Rabbi Address will give on November 13th. Today I want to share one of the themes of his second presentation, which focuses on Jacob and Joseph.

In this talk, Rabbi Address asks: Do we ever escape our family of origin? Is Dad still alive? Is Mom still alive? I know that whenever I look in the mirror, I see my late mother’s face staring back at me and she seems very alive! She still influences traditional practices I keep and some of the decisions I make, both large and small.

For instance, I never, never throw out a piece of aluminum foil until it has been used multiple times and I am absolutely convinced I cannot get one more turn out of it. Then there are the pretty spring and autumn wreaths that people place on their front doors and which I love. But the only time I put a wreath on our front door is at Christmas, because that’s what Mom did. When she was young a wreath on the door at any other time of year meant that someone in that home had died. Even though we no longer associate front door wreaths with death, I feel that my mother would disapprove if I were to hang one on my door except at Christmas. So I simply enjoy other people’s front door wreaths. These of course is just small things, but I know that, at least unconsciously, my mother continues to influence much bigger decisions I make in life, normally for good, but not always. For example,  there have been prejudices that my parents held that I have needed to reexamine and then shed altogether.

The biggest question I have concerns what my parents would think of the life I have created. I often wonder whether they would be pleased with the big choices I have made. I would like to think that they would be happy with the way I turned out and the family that Richard and I have raised; but there are some days I am not really sure. Have I been a disappointment to them? They would have been thrilled, for example, if I had finished my PhD in Church History at the University of St. Andrews and taught at a university. That did not happen. So am I still trying to earn their approval and make them proud of me? Even in the second half of life I am not sure that we ever fully escape this desire to please our parents – especially when we have been blessed with good and loving parents.

Do we ever escape our family of origin? Do we want to? What do YOU think?

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