Posts Tagged ‘family life’

At the Dining Table: Chapter 1 – Creating Community and Unity in new Spaces

Monday, July 12th, 2021

In the center of my yellow house in Chicago’s north side sits a large wooden table. My parents bought the table, riddled with holes and cracks, from an Amish farm in Wisconsin. Over the past 26 years of owning it, it has seen family dinners, rushed science projects, conflict, resolution, and divorce. 

Growing up in a Mexican-American household, my parents made sure we understood one thing: unity. In the age of cellphones, reality television, and the internet, it is easy to ignore reality and constantly distract yourself through entertainment. As a result, values have changed family dinners are no longer regularly practiced. This is where my wooden table comes into play. 

Fridays were for everyone, not just family. Fridays were for lessons on politics, religion, culture, and music. Fridays were for bowls of gumbo made by my Uncle Andrew and his brother Chris, two Cajun men that my parents met long before I was born. Over bowls of mussels simmered in a butter, shallot, and white wine sauce, I quietly listened to conversations on how things “used to be.” I even learned about my father’s immigration story, following his father from Mexico City to Chicago at the age of eight. It is around the wooden table that my dad told us of the meals he shared with his family: small bowls of rice and beans, pigeons caught from the street and stuffed, and on special occasions, mole a labor-intensive dish made from a plethora of ingredients like hand-peeled almonds, bread, avocado leaf, and chocolate that were all simmered into a thick sauce. 

My father and I preparing Friday night dinner.

On these Friday nights, my parents exposed me to communitynot one you are born into, but one you establish for yourself. Sitting in the black wooden chairs around our table was the community my mother and father created over time: It was with the help of experiences and long-lasting memories that built this sense of community. They ranged from childhood on the gang-ruled southside, law school in Wisconsin, and having to blend in with the affluent, white neighborhood they tried their best to blend into. 

Essentially, unity came with community. The people sitting at my table with a range of skin colors and accents, as well as coming from diverse places they called “home”, became my aunts and uncles. They would stay by my side as I became old enough to cook the Friday night meals by myself, and held my hand as the meals slowly stopped. 

In the end, some things are not made to last forever. The teenage love my parents once held for each other grew cold and moldy, sitting in the back of the refrigerator waiting to be thrown out. Along with the expiration of their marriage, our Friday nights became but a whisper of the values they instilled in my brothers and me planted into the back of our minds. 

Ultimately, moving away from home is hard. You leave the people that know you best and are forced to find your own community your chosen family. I saw my father do this as he left the house and the wooden table, searching again for a stronger sense of family after walking away from the one he already had. I saw it again as my brothers left for college, searching for a community far away from home and parental guidance. Then I experienced it for myself, packing my bags to cross the pond, where I hoped to find some connection back to my life in Chicago in an unknown city.

Using what I learned around that hole-riddled, brown, wooden table, I created my own community almost 4,000 miles away from home. Over bowls of rice made with seasonings I smuggled in through my luggage, my roommates and I came to love each other, like how my parents loved the neighbors they took in as family. With the right amount of food, I am sure you can find your community, too. 

Start building your community today over some delicious empanadas from Gourmet Empanadas on Avenue B!

By: Allegra Ruiz

Allegra Ruiz is a junior at New York University and she is from Chicago. She studies English and is minoring in Creative Writing. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, reading books and essay collections, and cooking for her roommates. Currently, she lives quietly in New York. 

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When Home Is Where the Heart Isn’t: Moving Back in with Your Parents

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

There’s no place like home—and good thing, because it’s hard enough dealing with just one of them. The dream life after college varies among students, but these dreams often have one goal in common: never live with parents again. Study results vary, but anywhere from a mere 20-47% of graduates actually achieve this goal right away, hence why we have been dubbed “Boomerang Kids” and “The Lost Generation.”

After having lived on campus and away from home, many students struggle with moving back in with their family, whether just for the summer or for who-knows-how-long after graduation. They might have to share a car or deal with the fact that what was once their bedroom is now the guest room. They might have to take care of pets and siblings. They might have to pay attention to how many possibly-inappropriate “That’s what she said” jokes they make (or maybe that’s just me). They might have to participate in housekeeping that goes beyond the fend-for-yourself methods that worked with roommates. They might have to actually have pants on as they walk around the house.

There are good things about moving back home too, though. Most students won’t have to buy their own groceries, don’t have to pay rent (though there are plenty who do), and won’t have to live with roommates anymore. The opportunity to save money is often enough incentive to make the big move back to the mothership.

Whatever your at-home responsibilities include, family life can often get frustrating and can affect your feelings towards the people you love. The sense of independence that you gained in college might start to feel restricted by watchful eyes of a parent, guardian, or even siblings. When you move back home, how can you make sure both you and your parents keep your sanity?

Of course, our parents aren’t all the same, and these guidelines won’t work with everyone, but the main point to remember is that compromise is crucial to solving many problems. Let’s face it: if you hate moving home, you’d probably only do it if you have to, in which case your parents are doing you a favor. Therefore, you should try to meet them eye-to-eye on issues that concern them (or that they think concern them).

The Problem: You feel weird having friends over.
First, you might want to establish a policy on having friends over (particularly if you want to drink alcohol, do drunken cartwheels, smash bottles, do body shots, etc.). If your parents’ guidelines are not something that you agree with, deal with it. Though the people invited might be your trustworthy friends, the location is still not your own and you have to respect the property of others. Find another place to meet up with people, whether someone else’s house, a public park, or a bar.

The Problem: Your parents want to set a curfew.
Tell them or leave a note before you go out about when they can expect you back. Be honest about where you are going, and assure them that you will be responsible. If you end up staying out later than expected, call them to let them know. Establish beforehand if a text will suffice (no one ever feels comfortable drunkenly calling the ‘rents, but spell check always helps in texts).

The Problem: Your room is now a guest room and feels impersonal.
Explain that you need a place to call home and a room to call your room. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind if you personalized your room a little bit. Offer to change it back before you leave (if you ever do!), just as if you were living in an apartment or dorm room.

The Problem: The nagging never stops.
If your parents constantly assign you tasks or complain about what you haven’t done, ask them to write a list for you ahead of time. That way, they will get an idea of the number of things they are asking of you and you will have all their requests in one spot so that you don’t forget them. This might also enable you to discuss the demands and negotiate them.

The Problem: Your family is simply driving you crazy.
Get out of the house. Rather than spending every minute either at home or with friends (though they can be a great source of sanity), consider getting a job, even if it is not your “dream job” or on the path towards it. In terms of your resumé, future employers would rather see you that you worked anywhere than nowhere. This will also get you out of the house, keep you busy, and maybe even earn you some money so that you can work towards affording your own place (if you’re not already being charged rent).

The Problem: You have no money or car and feel trapped in the house.
Again, get a job. Save money. Maybe babysit a neighbor that you don’t need a car to drive to or find a person or mode of public transportation that can bring you to your job. Ask your parents for loans, but be sure to respect their contributions, keep track of them, and pay them back.

The Problem: Your relationship with your parents is deteriorating.
As they grow up, many children start to realize the potential for their parents to be friends as well as guardians. But once parents start to pick up the roles of “Mom” and “Dad” full-time again, it is important to keep the “friend” role going too. Talk to each other about how your days are going, fill your dinnertime with conversation, and hang out—whether that means watching TV or a movie, washing the cars in the driveway, going shopping, exercising, or even just going to the grocery store together. Helping out around the house will help to bring friendliness back into your relationship as well, since it will encourage more of a mutual we-are-in-this-together relationship and less of a predator-prey, all-you-do-is-live-under-my-roof-and-eat-my-food relationship. Personally, I like to set aside time right when I get home from work to do things around the house so that I can get it done and move on.

The Problem: It doesn’t look like you will ever get out of there.
Stay positive. Set a potential move-out date, get an idea of where you’d want to move to, do research, and get yourself excited with ideas for your independent home. Also, remember that you are not alone. There are millions of others in the same situation as you, like Sabrina.

Even if you do manage to achieve an orderly parent-child relationship, both you and your parents are probably still looking forward to the day that you move out. Know that it will come, but remember that it will not happen by itself. Work towards it, have patience, keep the peace in the meantime, and residential independence will be in your grasp soon enough.

Help the family save money (and appreciate you more!) by offering to pick up the groceries with this discount coupon!

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