My mom’s older sister has come to visit on their way to another destination, along with my cousin, my cousin’s husband, and their daughter. Watching their old Irish Catholic style of banter resurface is weird in a way that is worth describing. I’m using this as an opportunity to define the differences between my mom’s side (Irish Catholic) and my Dad’s (German).
My mom’s side:
- We had corned beef and cabbage, chocolate cake, and veggie tray for dinner. My mom was drinking a Guinness. There is literally nothing left.
- My mom feels the need to automatically insult the food (“the cake is dry”), and make similar comments while still not being able to take a compliment
- My mother’s name is Katie (Kathleen). Her mother was Mary Kate. My second cousin who is my age is also Kate (Katie). The naming traditions are so repetitious.
- Talking crap on the family members who aren’t present, while still using a bunch of euphemisms being ambivalent about raising hell. Being benevolently and malevolently mischief minded.
- Statements that are ambiguously offensive and truly offensive caricatures of ethnic minorities. And just think, it’s not even a holiday!
- Talking about car maintenance (my Grandpa worked his whole career at Goodyear and her three brothers were all at some point into working on cars). DIY home maintenance and fixing things.
- High cheekbones, feathered hair, sensible yet muted color palette for clothing, home of the mom jeans.
- “The little guy takes the kick in the pants for these oil robber barons” is literally something that I heard come out of my mom’s mouse. So much focus on working class values. Somebody talking about how the people who were rich and “cared about the community” left. Not really sure what town they were talking about, but for the most part, the comments are interchangeable.
My Dad’s side:
- Much more vain philosophy, cynicism, and nihilism
- More idealistic beliefs and the telling of fantastical tall tales
- Dreaming/Imaginative quality blends into substance abuse
- Glorified self-narrative in the style of bildungsroman (in which a young man finds himself), focus on personal fulfillment and proving oneself through glory/financial success. Look up the Wikipedia summary of Faust by Goethe and we’re nearly there.
- More favoritism of male children
- More schadenfreude (laughing at the suffering on your enemies/inventing enemies to laugh at), authoritarian values, and bullying
- So much Iowa and farming and pork products and corn. Mix in cornbread and watermelon and we’ve almost got a potluck. Yay Midwest!
- Bickering and debating at the dinner table. Whipping your opponent into submission. Tears/emotional expression as a sign of weakness. Caustic masculinity.
- Weird fantasies of self-sufficiency.
- More fascination with nature.
- More intentional cheapness and acceptance of being poor/love of bargains
To be honest, I am a lot more like my mom and identify with the values on my mom’s side a lot more than my Dad’s, based partially on his various bad choices. I know that there are redeeming bits and pieces here and there, but so be it. My mom has always been very invested in our community, and I really resonate with her sense of mischief and the belief that authority figures hold social responsibility. My mom is very blunt, and very passionate, and she stands up for her beliefs (especially when she feels good about her self-esteem). I like how my both my parents but even more so my Dad raised me to eat what was set in front of me, and to not enjoy getting a bargain at Goodwill. I like how me and my Dad spent a lot of time enjoying silence observing nature on road trips and taking walks out by Kansas’ various man-made lakes. My Dad is a lot more striving, and he doesn’t believe in God. For the most part, I don’t like how a lot of the German literature I’ve read seems completely idealistic and nonsensical. It just reminds me of his broken promises and inflated self image.
I love my parents, but we are all broken people. I think that’s okay. If there’s anything I want to be able to pass on to my children, it would be competency with emotion-based skills, the ability to respect others while you disagree, and an intense love of honesty. I used to love debating with my Dad, but he rarely fought fair. My mom usually thought that talking philosophy was me arguing with her, and she never engaged with a lot of my desire to question and explore. They are both getting better. My mom is making more of an effort now that she feels less overwhelmed (and my sister and I have aged), and my Dad has become more sensitive and mellow now that he has less to boast about. I think they’ll be good grandparents to my kids, but on a personal level, I want to be a better parent to my own children. Childhood is so special. I guess it is what it is.