I remember my cousin's eighth birthday. As the only boy in the bunch, he always got different toys from me and my sister. Better toys. He had the Batman cape, the Legos, and on that birthday, the Red Ryder BB gun! I was sooooo jealous of his BB gun, I got one myself when my birthday came around. If I hadn't made such a fuss though, it surely would've been another Tweety-filled holiday.
I come from a family that gives the boys G.I. Joes and the girls Barbies, that doesn't drink or smoke, that goes to church several times a week, and that might not be aware that the South didn't actually win the war. Although not every family member fits this mold, I can introduce you to quite a few who do. And it's how I grew up.
This may be a given, in fact this is a given, but not every family is like that. It's almost easy to forget, but it's important to remember. I was reminded on a recent road trip.
My roommate and I drove through Florida, visiting his family and staying with friends. We spent a lot of time together in the car and talked about everything under the sun. One thing that really resonated with me, though, was something he said about families and our differences: you don't really know what people's lives were like for the first 18 years when you meet them for the first time in college.
In undergrad we don't have the luxury of seeing each others' roots. So when that roommate of yours is absolutely driving you up the wall... Well, chances are their family functioned in a totally different way from yours. And that's kind of awesome.
Matt's family was a perfect example. His parents, liberal hippies that have Grateful Dead memoribilia around the house, were so different! They taught Matt his multiples with a drinking game. He wasn't allowed to play with guns (no Red Ryder for that house!). His Dad even nicknamed me "Herpes Girl" after a few hours (and a story, of course), something my Dad would never dream of doing. I absolutely adored them.
Yeah, our backgrounds are different, but that makes life so fun! I love getting to know other families and their priorities, habits, and dynamics. I feel like I can then understand my friends on a new level. I also realize what I love about my own family and what I want to do better with them. Basically, it's a win-win realization and experience.