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Family: Love it or hate it, hate it, you have to live with it

After students have paid their dues for four years at USF and grow into the people they were meant to become, there is one aspect of their life that is inescapable, no matter how much they wish it wasn’t: family.

Hate them, love them, don’t talk to them, talk to them every day or whatever, students’ families will always be a part of their lives. Yet the role that family plays in a people’s lives may be as limited or expansive as they choose. It’s usually up to the individual how close they want to keep their family, as they have now reached the age of reason as independent adults. Don’t want to go visit them? Fine. Want to invite them to visit the dorm room on campus? Go for it.

For newly minted adults, keeping distance from parents and siblings is a new luxury that many jump at the chance to take advantage of.

Why would one do this? For starters, many students probably just need a break. Think about it: They’ve been under their parents’ rule for the first 18 years of their lives, and now they’re finally free – at least when they’re away at school. Another added bonus: No more having to share the bathroom, household duties – or anything period – with their siblings day to day. They are now the masters of their own destiny.

During the initial separation from family, an individual morphs into a totally different person. They tend to become a bit more rational in their dealings with others, mainly because family members – especially siblings – have this unbelievable ability to bring out a raw, animalistic rage in one another. One minute, a perfectly normal conversation is occurring between a brother and sister; the next, they are wrestling on the floor, ready to rip each other’s hair out for the right to hold the remote.

One would think that these irrational fights would cool as the years go by and siblings are separated. However, it would come as a surprise to pairs or groups of siblings how these old arguments always die hard.

Rewind to two nights ago. I was at my parents’ house talking to my 17-year-old brother about his job, asking him why he didn’t want to work there. He kept insisting he didn’t want to talk about it, I kept questioning him, he called me an unprintable name, I shouted an unprintable response back at him and stormed into another room. As a 21-year-old, I felt quite ridiculous that I had responded to my brother in the same manner that my 16-year-old self would have.

But it shows that these petty sibling arguments do not die through the years; they simply change and evolve just as each individual sibling does.

My mother, who is in her early 40s and lives 1,200 miles from her mother and siblings, still feels frustration with them after spending an extended period of time with them. The difference between expectations versus what actually happens is a factor that causes such conflict in families that spend time together after being apart. I could tell during a visit to Wisconsin over the holidays that my mother’s expectations were quite removed from what actually happened: “I wanted a Waltons Christmas!” she said to us during one of the days there.

Part of the misplaced expectations can occur when adults are expected to revert to their traditional role as the child, though they have been out of the house for years. When I visited my parents’ house this weekend, I was expected to clean up the kitchen, walk the dog and fill up my mother’s van with gas. I reverted to my traditional role as “the daughter,” who had to help out and obey my parents. Granted, I did these things happily because my parents have done a lot for me. However, not all former children are so quick to do these tasks because they believe that since they are now adults, they are above such demeaning tasks.

So if families can be such a source of frustration, why continue to deal with them after becoming an adult? Simple: When the you-know-what really hits the fan, they’ll be there, complete with an endless supply of support and love. You may put up with them, but they in turn also put up with you – and you are surely not a picnic 24-7. If one’s actual family is abusive and unloving, then surely they need a close group of friends who they call family. Bottom line – no one can wrangle this thing called life by themselves.

Amanda Whitsitt is a senior majoring in mass communications.