Family: The More the Merrier
You’ve probably heard it said that you don’t just marry your spouse, you also marry his or her family. While I don’t completely agree with that statement, you certainly do join a new family, and there is something about relationships with the in-laws that can be very difficult. Even the pope got in a mother-in-law joke alluding to as much in his recent address in Philadelphia.
I have been blessed with amazing in-laws with whom I get along very well (or at least if they don’t like me, I remain blissfully unaware) and I know that my family loves Juan. And both of our families respect the autonomy of our new little family.
Yet even so, it has been an interesting adjustment becoming son and daughter in-law at the same time as husband and wife. While Juan and I were dating, it took a long time before I stopped feeling like “the foreign girl” and more like part of Juan’s family. After all, it wasn’t just a matter of getting used to another family’s way of being, it was also another language and another culture. For example, when we first met, I could not understand Juan’s dad because he speaks more of a rural variety of Chilean Spanish. Many of the dishes his mom made I had never seen before and sometimes I didn’t know how to eat them, which lead to some funny moments at the dinner table. While cultural differences can be a great conversation-starter and contribute to the richness of relationships between persons, they can also prevent you from feeling at home.
Over time, the Aguilera’s did begin to feel like family to me, and now that Juan and I are married, they actually are family.
This month with the Pope’s visit to the United States and the World Meeting of Families, we’ve been given a lot to reflect on in terms of family life and how central it is to humanity and society. As the Pope so often alluded to in his addresses, the family is a privileged place of love and humanity, a “factory of hope,” but not without its difficulties.
After all, you don’t choose your family, and although you choose your spouse, you don’t choose his or her family either, and you have no idea what personalities or temperaments your future children will have. Yet you are called to love all of your family just as they are, given to you by God. And as Pope Francis likes to say, the plates may fly, and no wonder when so many people with different personalities are thrown together, but family is always family and there is always light there.
Here in Chile, we recently celebrated Independence Day (Sept. 18th) which means a legal holiday with family time and lots of food. It was the first time since Juan and I got married that we saw a lot of his extended family. Although I had met them all before, this was the first time I was truly or “officially” part of the Aguilera clan and I was struck by the change. These are people who will be our children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and all of them are so different from myside of the family. We have different family dynamics and personalities, speak a different language, share a different culture, and have different ideas about how family should be, but we are all family now.
Juan and I feel so blessed to have the support of our families, and while learning to fit in with the in-laws can be challenging, it’s a joy to experience your family double as you say “I do.” Each of us received on our wedding day many more people to love and support, and who love and support us.
Praise God for our families! May we and all families grow in love and become the united and strong families that the world so desperately needs.