Recently, our extended family has been going through a difficult period caring for my 89 year old grandfather (Nonno Vincenzo). Nonno Vincenzo has been housebound for the last year suffering from dementia, et. al. I was named after Nonno Vincenzo and we share many of the same traits (including being calm most of the time with the occasional loss of temper).
Nonno’s physical decline got me thinking about how personal identity is shaped by family and whether it’s a good thing? For example, in most large cities in the Western world, people cherish the ability to create their own identity and the personal freedom that comes along with such a choice. In Ancient Greece, however, a newborn male became a citizen only after being acknowledge as a member of a particular family. The newborn was also, in most cases, named after the paternal grandfather. So, in many ways, identity in Ancient Greek culture was shaped by the family the individual was born into.
Family, as I’ve said in other posts, is critical if you’re interested in money matters and living a frugal life. The way I see it, an extended family can help with:
1. Raising and caring for children (this has been the model for thousands of years and it’s only in Western countries where we’ve moved away from this idea).
2. Managing a home (including home repairs and maintenance). This is especially true if you live in an older home and have family members who are handy.
3. Maintaining a social life. OK, hanging out with your 90 year old grandfather on a Friday night may not be that much fun, but the occasional dinner and party with family is really nice. I try to have dinner my parents once a week and I like having family over for a coffee and light snacks every month or so.
4. General advice. Think of Uncle Frank and Aunt Maria as pro bono attorneys and psychotherapists who can offer advice on tough life decisions. Making a decision in a vacuum is not good and I like to shop ideas and possible solutions around with family before acting on an item, so I think this tip is particularly important.
Let me know what you think in terms of family, identity, and how you’ve managed to stay close to your extended family.