I don't much have a problem with labels, believe it or not. I recognize the human need to categorize things. I give myself labels as a sort of shorthand to help other people understand me quickly. Not what I do, but who & what I am. Introverted, bookworm, small-l libertarian, Protestant, mother, attachment parent, honest and loyal. Obviously, that list isn't given in order. Because I list those things, you can get a good idea of exactly who I am.
Families are somewhat different.
I am a part of many different families, large and small. Circles are made and broken and rearranged. I am chiefly a part of the Erik O-- family, the one that consists of me, of Erik, of the daughters, and of the unborn child. I am a broken-off part of the Morse family, consisting of myself, my daughters, and my ex-husband and his family. I am a smaller part of the Drysdale/Geissler/Moody family, my birth family that consists of my parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins. I am a tiny, new part of the O--/W--/D-- family, Erik's family. I occupy different strata in each of these families. I recognize that Erik has his own position in all of the families I'm a part of and then some.
We both recognize, however, that our family, the Sabra/Pistolero family, is the chief and most important one.
This is something I discovered as a teenager: no matter that you grew up with a person, or that you saw them grow up, you will never know them as well as their spouse does.
See, you are born and you are immediately put into a box. And then that box is labeled. Whether the labels are ever changed to accurately reflect who you are is another matter altogether. It quite often doesn't happen. (It is something I am aware of as a parent and will try to guard against, but I make no promises this early on.)
For it to happen that you are properly labeled within your family, your relatives have to pay attention.
I'm growing more & more annoyed with the efforts of Erik's family to keep him in the box they put him in as a child. He does not fit in the box. I am fairly certain he never did. Whether no one was ever paying attention or they interpreted things according to their own beliefs I haven't a clue, but there is a startling level of disrespect.
And I realize these people changed his diapers. I realize they probably visited him in the NICU when he was born, and they watched him crawl and walk and start school, then go through school and form friendships and crushes and have both fall by the wayside. I get that.
But they don't get him.
They don't get the introversion. They don't seem to recognize that his priorities are not as like theirs as is expected of a relative, that he has his own opinions and dreams and desires. He told me a story once that when he had to leave A&M through no fault of his own, one of his uncles told him he'd blown a great opportunity. Nevermind that he didn't blow anything. I can imagine what was said around family dinner tables when he switched from Engineering to Communications.
And then he married me.
And there was apparently no precedent for this in his family. I don't mean for marrying a divorcèe with kids. That happens all the time. I don't even mean for eloping. His uncle did that. I mean no one expected him to get married.
Which is cool. But for the fact that they seem to think he's gone crazy and I'm the reason. Actually, I'm even okay with that. What I'm not okay with is a large portion of his family acting like assholes and then getting butt-hurt when I call them on their shit. They should call my former in-laws and ask them how well their expectations of me folding up and shutting up and fitting into the family went.
It has escalated from telling me at our second meeting that I should make Erik shave (and saying "If he really liked you, he'd wash his truck) to public gasping and tsking over his beard and calling him--and I quote--a strange, strange man.
Newsflash, folks: He hasn't changed. It's just that you haven't been paying attention. Getting married, reproducing, moving to the big city...All stuff he's wanted. Not our fault you never noticed.