I know a guy who had a very troubled life when he was a kid. It was the kind of life that could have turned him into a bitter and vengeful individual, except that he made the decision to change the course of his journey and pass up the opportunity to infect his kids.
Actually, I know a few guys like that, along with quite a few more who are repeating the destructive patterns of their childhood homes. That’s what they know, they think they turned out just fine, and there’s no compelling need to switch gears.
In every family, in every home, the time-honored processes repeat until someone decides to break the chain. We’re all victims of our pasts until, maybe, one day, we’re not. One day, somebody decides that the past isn’t prologue, that “it's just the way our family is...,” is a poor excuse for doing the wrong thing again and again.
I encountered the permutations in my own family as we dove into some ancestry investigations over the past couple of years. As with all family trees, mine has a few diseased roots. We all want to discover that our ancestors slew dragons and cured diseases, but sometimes we’re disappointed to learn that we have more crooks than champions along the line. Sometimes, we look at some of our forebears and we’re very, very grateful that they didn’t have more kids.
Every family has its black sheep, but I’m more intrigued by the white sheep, the ones who changed the family’s arc for the better. We all learn how to become parents by watching our parents and we all learn how to live our lives by our families’ model. Most of the time, nothing is so toxic that we’re repulsed by it, and sometimes the toxic stuff is the only thing we know.
And then there are the unsung heroes on the family tree, the people who decide enough is enough and it’s absolutely not good enough for the next generation. They’re largely invisible, because doing good doesn’t generate much of a splash, but you can see the inflection points through the lens of time. Look back a few generations and you’ll find the person who flipped the script, who jettisoned the scourge and created a new model for an enlightened family.
Whatever our situations today, we can be pretty sure there were twists and turns along the way. A good family turned bad, a young person was led astray, a single malevolent parent created a multi-generational pandemic…until somebody broke the spell.
The people who set the earth back on its foundation can seem pretty regular, exceedingly normal, in everyday settings. You’d never suspect their heroism, because they aren’t looking for the spotlight. Instead, they’re quietly and steadily moving the needle toward sunlight, leaving the dark side behind. Maybe they deserve more recognition, or at least a clever T-shirt. The world would be a helluva lot worse without them.
If you look through your family and you can’t find the person who broke the chain, maybe this is a good time to be a hero. Just a thought.
And here's another thought...click here to subscribe to Dad Writes.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.