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Becoming the Anchor for your Family
When did I become the Oldest one?
At some point in your lifetime you will realize that you are the last one standing of the old guard. You will look around and see that all those who were older than you have gone on to the next step in their journey after life on this planet and you are now the Elder.
If you are at all like me, this realization may come with a surprise. I lost my Father about six years ago, but my Mother remained the anchor or backbone of our small family. The "kids"; my brother and his wife and myself all kind of stepped up to the plate to assist her with life as she was already into her eighties, but even so she remained the Matriarch and we all still kind of gravitated around her.
The need of and presence of a Matriarch, or Patriarch or both is especially noteworthy at the Holiday season. The holidays have only recently come and gone and it was then that I was struck by the realization that since my Mother's passing almost two years ago I find myself as the Matriarch of my family. And, I find myself feeling that I am not ready! It's not about age as much as feeling that I'm not in the same type of position as my parents were as the Anchor's for my family.
In my family my parents were married the entire time, which in today's world is becoming more unusual than typical. And, we were only four people, my parents my brother and myself. But, my parents were an anchoring force that the rest of us united around. We could not have conceived of a holiday that didn't revolve around time spent at my parents house. The holiday didn't happen unless or until it happened with all of us gathered together with them. As my brother and I got older and developed our own family traditions we had occasion to celebrate on our own, but until we had the combined holiday celebration that included my parents we did not feel we had celebrated properly.
Now for the past two years, there have been no "Grandma or Grandpa" and I only now have belatedly realized that the throne has been passed to me!
Stepping up to the Plate
If you are like me and find yourself at the top of the chain in your family you may be feeling like you are not ready to take your place. I find this idea a bit daunting and intimidating, even though this is my family and not a corporation made up of strangers.
I take it seriously that I am now the Matriarch of my family! I don't have a spouse as I was widowed almost fourteen years ago. Somehow I feel like this job of being the Anchor should be shared with a partner. I suppose I feel that way as I grew up with two parents and am a Baby Boomer.
These days being a single parent is much more common place, or having a family that is comprised of two Mom's or two Dad's is not unusual either. Regardless of the make up of your family at some point the oldest generation is going to pass on and you will be left to be at the Helm. I wish that I had some kind of a manual to share with you to guide you on the path of being the Anchor for your own family.
But, what I do have to share is my own experience and wisdom of the past few years on how I am learning to be the Matriarch, or anchor of my own family.
One of the most important roles that the Anchor takes is being the keeper of Tradition! Tradition is what binds us together and let's us know we are connected to something before us that will go on after us. And one of the most important times to share those traditions is at the holidays.
Beyond tradition I think it's important to be a stabilizing force and to be accessible to your family. What I mean is that it is helpful for the younger generation to have a stable person that they feel is in charge, for lack of a better description. It's a wonderful thing to know that there is another person in your life that is keeping an eye out for you! I think one of the things I miss the most about my parents is not having them to simply talk to or share things with.
It was not always about needing advice or needing help, but about having these people who had lived through much of what I was going through and knowing they had wisdom to guide me. Or just to listen with compassion. We can do this for our family members and in some way we are "paying it forward" each time we listen with an open mind, or share advice when we've been asked.
You might feel inadequate to take on this role; I know that I find myself feeling this way from time to time! But, remember that this is a family and not a bunch of strangers whom you are trying to be an Anchor for! This is an act of love and one of familial respect and you will be happy you chose to step up to the task when your time comes as will your family.
You can do this!
For me, one of the hardest things about being the Anchor for my family is feeling that I'm not good enough. This thought pattern is one that is common to many of us and we know that we can't get bogged down in feeling like we aren't good enough. We must instead believe in ourselves and do our best without trying to compare to others. I find that I feel inadequate for being a single party and not having a spouse to share the responsibility. And I feel perhaps I should have more wealth or more material goods to bring to the table.
But, I realize that my family love me and they appreciate me as I am. Maybe they would like it if I had a husband still, for that would be one more person to love and be loved by. If I had more wealth or material goods that might be something that would be enjoyed among them, but it is not the basis of what they get from me. What they look to me for is love and support. Emotional support and a willingness to listen and to help. That I can do in abundance! And it is because of the way I raised my children that they have values that go beyond the material.
What it comes down to is being the best Anchor that you can be! It may not look like the way it did with your own parents, and it may be completely different than what you see depicted in the media. But, I assure you if you approach being the Anchor for your family with love, openness and honesty you and your family will benefit!
I still feel a bit surprised on Christmas morning, or New Year's Eve to realize that I'm the old guard now, and there no people over me any more. It feels bit scary to find myself as the Anchor for my family, but it also feels like I'm in a place of privilege and respect and that is a lovely place to be.
My family are not expecting me to become something more than I was before I became the Anchor. They are happy to have me as a part of the family. Perhaps now they look up to me a bit more and they certainly are coming to me to ask about traditions that have come and traditions that we create together too. And I think as time goes on that being the Anchor will become a comfort and not feel so scary or daunting.
Part of it is missing the people who've gone! But I am learning that I honor the memory of my parents, the Anchor's before me, by living up to the standard they've set. I feel that my parents would be proud of me for being an Anchor for my children, their spouses and my grandchildren.
Life is about change and the more we learn to adapt to change, the happier we will be. We don't become the Anchor overnight, it just feels that way! Just breathe and live and love your family and do the best you can to be a stabilizing force for them. The rest will fall into place and your family will evolve.