Open Phones: Knowing Your Family Story

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Did you read the article "The Stories That Bind Us" in Sunday's New York Times? It was about research that finds that developing a strong family narrative creates stronger families and more resilient individuals. Tell us how you've passed on your family narrative or how your parents passed it along to you. Call us at 212-433-WNYC or comment here.


Comments [13]

inwoodita from nyc

Because my father is a highly functionally autistic and just had no interest in his family after he left home and after his parents died (he told us hardly anything about them), and because my mother and her family had a rift that lasted 30 years, and which interrupted from childhood my relationship with my cousins and aunt and uncle, I grew up feeling, at first (seeing how fraught it had been to actually have family around), free. But in my twenties, travelling around Europe, I began to realize that I felt not just free (which is nice sometimes), but alternately, I felt like I had nothing holding me down. I felt light, ungrounded, alone in the world. I'm not complaining -- lots of people feel that way due to other kinds of tragedies (war, catastrophe), or orphanhood. But it is definitely a feeling of disconnectedness. When I tried to find out about what family I had, my dad had nothing for me due to never having reconnected with his family, and my mom refused to tell me anything about her past. All I had were memories from early childhood. My brothers and I eventually, as adults, regrouped and basically compared stories of our childhood. Eventually I reconnected with some of my cousins (but unfortunately, disconnecting with my parents). It feels so much better to have a slightly extended family, though some of it has died off in my adulthood. I'm very grateful for what I have now. Yes, it's important to look around a room and feel like you belong, and know that you're part of the story.

Mar. 19 2013 01:28 PM
oscar from ny

..light travels straight so it went thru the equator around 76, I was born.
3 years later I went inside a cave and went thru these two glowing like elevators doors taking me thru time.
A year later I saw my mother die, I was 4.
I than go here and there..
I was made from fire not from clay, I am a gin from a band ig gins, I am here as a resistance a soldier for Armageddon, I am here just waiting..waiting til the time of reckoning..

Mar. 19 2013 12:38 PM
Jef Klein from Princeton

I think sometimes the family story stops the day of divorce, or at least that was a fear of mine. So one of my goals as a single mother has been to weave a strong family narrative for my kids, despite the fact that their parents were divorced. We ate dinner together every night, same as before the divorce, and at the table we talked: about the day, etc, and about the family, past and present. Over the years I'd make sure to comment about how we were doing, moving forward, as a team, and would point out the achievements each of us made along the way. In this way, a new narrative emerged, of us as a loving, quirky, well-liked family, with our ups and downs, but always there for one another, and blessed with family and friends near and far. This positive outlook, and bringing of the family story forward into our new reality, has had a profound impact on how my kids see themselves. I believe it was a big contributor to their success in high school and college. They feel good about themselves because they feel good about their family.

Mar. 19 2013 12:04 PM
Molly from Brooklyn

Our son was born during hurricane Sandy, literally at 7 PM on October 29th, at Roosevelt hospital - we're trying to figure out how to tell him about his birth, as it was a pretty destructive storm. For many people it was a horrible day, but for us it was an amazingly happy day.

Mar. 19 2013 12:02 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I grew up in a Brooklyn tenement watching my mother cry over the murder of her first baby in the Holocaust while flicking off the feathers of a chicken on the roof of building.

Mar. 19 2013 11:59 AM
monique from harlem

I was a Stanley Cup Playoff baby. April 26th, 1966 Montreal V Detroit. My Mom's water broke during the 2nd period but she refused to go to the hospital until the game ended. It went into overtime AND the winning goal was a controversial goal which had to be reviewed upstairs. Montreal won the game and then Detroit went on to win the series. They are to this day, my favorite teams. (Montreal a little more so because I am Canadian.)

Mar. 19 2013 11:56 AM
Paola from jersey

One night in conversation my husband opened up to my son about his childhood hardships. I watched my 10 yr old's eyes fill with tears. I will remember that moment forever; it was beautiful to witness empathy, love, and vulnerability all at once in both of them. In that moment a new relationship was born; it was one of the most loving moments I have witnessed. It was a reminder of the meaning of parenting.

Mar. 19 2013 11:56 AM
Linda from Jersey Shore

I am a huge fan of this. Everyone in my family read that article on sunday. We take the family story to the max. We have our mitocondrial DNA. so we have 40,000 years of family history!

Mar. 19 2013 11:54 AM
Maude from Boreum Hill

I'm a 38 year old alcoholic in recovery, and just told my parents about being in AA last weekend. They responded by telling me about all the people in our family with the disease. Although I'm grateful for that information now, it would have been much more useful when I was younger and had no idea what an alcoholic was, or that I could be at risk. My family is pretty midwestern at heart and prefers to sweep things under the rug if at all possible.

Mar. 19 2013 11:51 AM
Christine from Westchester

My father took up geneology around the time he was having his children. When he retired a number of years ago, he took a class on it and dug in. He's done amazing research and become the family historian. Tools like "Family Tree Maker" really help to map this stuff. He's collected our family heritage and even "wrote the book" for our family. It's really a gift.

Mar. 19 2013 11:51 AM
francyne from Pelham Bay Park

I was never told the answers to any of those questions and have survived just fine. Never even met most of my relatives, never bothered to try once I was on my own (age 16.5)

Mar. 19 2013 11:51 AM
mickey from nyc

One year I bought my Grandmother Delphine a Grandmother's book. It's like a baby book but it gets filled in by my Grandmother and it has all kinds of different pages like the family tree, how she met my Grandfather, stories about my Mother, about me, what her likes were, what her dreams were, what her favorites were, etc. After she passed away, I found the book, completely filled out. She had planned to give it to me that Christmas but she passed away just a week before Christmas.
After she passed, I still felt like I had so many questions so I struck up a relationship with my Grandmother's little sister in Arizona and visited her twice and spoke with her weekly. I now feel like I know my Grandmother even better and as a bonus, I got to know my Great Aunt Gina a lot better as well.

Mar. 19 2013 11:50 AM

I once told a story about our past that I found fascinating. But my sister later told me she wished I wouldn't tell negative stories. She seemed very sensitive, and felt that so much criticism had come our family's way, that such stories simply added to a kind of bad-to-the-bone reputation.

Mar. 19 2013 11:48 AM

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