Tansitional Characters for Family First Friday #9.

Welcome home Richard!!!  Slim’s best friend returned home from his mission in Bolivia on Wednesday!  We have enjoyed having him here with us for a few days before he goes to see his family!  (They moved right before he left for his mission, but Richard’s records remained here.)  I included Richard in this email because he is a transitional character too!!!  We dearly love him!!

Now, onto the topic at hand.

I grew up in a home where my father was unkind.  Nothing was ever good enough and there was zero praise for a job well done, but plenty of criticism especially if things went poorly.  It was not only aimed at me.  I usually did fairly well, but my siblings struggled much more than I did.

In my father’s defense, I cannot remember my grandfather (my dad’s father) ever saying very much.  We visited them regularly, but I am sure my father and grandfather did not have a very healthy relationship either.  Being that my father continued to visit him, I would imagine their relationship was better than the relationship my grandfather had with his father.  I asked my dad about the relationship between my grandfather and great-grandfather one day.  He could only remember that my grandfather wanted to be as far away from him as possible.

A negative father/son relationship seems to have been passed down through the generations.  My father has continued the trend.  Hi relationships with his sons are not the greatest, either.  Alcoholism is another negative trait that has been passed down that line from generation to generation.  Although my father is not an alcoholic, his brother drinks plenty, his sister married an alcoholic, and my father has a lot of alcoholic behaviors, probably learned from watching his father.

There were some good things handed down through the generations too.  We all love gardening.  My grandfather always had an amazing garden.  My father’s was not amazing but worked fine.  Mine is great if I live in Utah, but pathetic here in Northern California.  I’m not too excited about growing kale.  The zucchini molds and you can only eat so much lettuce.

Positive and negative traits are passed down through the generations.  In the family science literature, a transitional character is one who has changed the patterns of past generations and created new ones that move into the future generations.  For example, a person who comes from a generational history of abuse and then is able to learn new ways to manage themselves and chooses not to abuse their children or spouse would be considered a transitional character.  The actual definition is:  one who changes the course of lineage by filtering the destructiveness out of his own lineage so that the generation downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.

I first learned about transitional characters in the fall of 1992.  I had just given birth to Spanky in July.  Our first assignment was to make a genogram.  Basically, it is a family tree, however, it emphasizes relationships and behaviors.  You lay out everyone, beginning with yourself, circles for women, squares for men, and draw in the relationships and identify behaviors (positive and negative) passed down through the generations.

This isn’t anyone I know, just an example.

On one side of my family was alcoholism and emotional abuse.  On the other side, child sexual abuse.  I knew I was a transitional character, or could be, by not allowing these destructive behaviors to be passed on to my children.  I broke the cycle, just as Richard will break the negative cycles of behavior in his family.

Here is an example of a specific turning point before I went to college.

I came from a yelling family.  We yelled a lot and were yelled at a lot.  One day (I was about 14) my brother and I were arguing (yelling) at each other.  As I was yelling I remember thinking, “What is the point of all of this?  Yelling is not making any difference.  It isn’t going to change his opinion or mine.  We aren’t getting anywhere.  My voice hurts, my face is red, and I am mad.  I do not like myself when I am yelling.  I am not going to do this anymore.”  And I quit, just like that.

We may not be able to change things as easily.  But as we recognize things that we want to change and behaviors that we do not want to pass down through the generations, and we make effort not to, the Lord will help us make those positive changes in our families.  He doesn’t want them passed down any more than we do.  In fact, He will not only help us break negative cycles, but will also help us to institute positive ones.  Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and family prayer were not cycles that were present in my family of origin (the one I grew up in).  My parents tried them once in a while, but nothing that ever stuck.  We have instituted them in our family and they are here to stay.  Those little things help us to have a happier family.  The spiritual influence of those choices makes a difference in our daily attitudes and how we treat each other.  Our relationships are happier and healthier.  I think my children will do an even better job than Drew and I have done.

I’ll close with this parting comment.  Elder Nelson came to one of our stake conferences years ago.  He was helping us to understand the importance of family scripture study and he said these words, “Family scripture study in our home was not always a howling success.  Sometimes there was more howling than success….”  (paraphrasing now) but our children have done a better job than we did as they have built on our foundation.  And our grandchildren are doing an even better job.

As we make efforts to institute positive changes into our families and eliminate negative ones, we pave the way for successive generations to do better than we did and have more stable and happier families!  You can do it too!

Congratulations again Richard!!!  You will be an amazing transitional character!

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