FEATURE — Years ago, some friends shared with us a family motto that we quickly adopted as our own: “We’re (insert family name), we’re better than that!”
Better than what I’m not exactly sure, but intrinsic in that motto were two elements we thought a motto should incorporate: inspiration and hope. Even if the inspiration and hope were a little nebulous.
So we promptly adopted it.
When my children misbehave, my husband reminds them, “We’re Daytons, we’re better than that.”
When my husband misbehaves, my children remind him the same.
When my mother calls us talentless after a family talent show, we don’t say we’re better than that (because we really aren’t), but we do use her words as the tagline for the next family reunion shirt.
Really, we do. The year after that original “talentless” talent show, our family reunion shirts read, “Talentless since 1967” in honor of the year my parents were married. You know the expression about the apple not falling far from the tree.
You may think it’s odd to memorialize a perceived weakness like that. Most normal families, I’m told, print their name and year of the reunion on their shirts — and maybe the location.
But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the inside family joke that nobody else gets or that you have to explain to onlookers in hopes that they’ll share in the laugh?
In addition to the “talentless” shirt, we’ve had several other taglines highlighting funny or embarrassing shared experiences. When something interesting happens at the reunion one year, count on it making the reunion shirt the following year.
One shirt read, “it’s all fun and games ‘til somebody barfs” to commemorate the family reunion when half of us got the stomach flu.
Another shirt read, “the birthplace of unnecessary noise,” to give a nod to both the fact that the reunion was in our hometown that year, and how we were cited the previous year by the Water’s Edge Homeowners Association in Lake Tahoe for being too noisy in the pool. How dare we laugh and frolic in public waters!
Come mid-July, we’ll gather as a family at Bear Lake and add a new tagline to our treasure troves.
Since my mom’s sister and her family will be joining us this year, it will be a shared memory between the two families. I’m thinking something like, “beware the danger of pie mixing.”
That doozy will pay homage to the time my little sister, who at age 5 ate too much pie at Thanksgiving and got sick — but claimed it was only the mixing of different types of pies in her belly not the sheer volume that made her sick.
I was a little worried my sister’s self-esteem would be hurt by bringing up the great pie-mixing incident of 1988, but then I read an interesting article in “The Atlantic.”
In the article, psychology professor Kristin Neff discussed a concept called self-compassion and why it’s more important than self-esteem.
Specifically, Neff talks about how when we fail under the self-esteem model, we often “react as if something has gone wrong – that this shouldn’t be happening”; such a response feeds a lot of unnecessary unhappiness and isolation, she said.
Because as humans, we all fail, we all make mistakes — and even eat too many pies at Thanksgiving.
She continued to say that the difference in our response to mistakes and failure if we have self-compassion is “it’s not ‘poor me,’ it’s ‘well, everyone fails.’ Everyone struggles. This is what it means to be human.”
I agree with Professor Neff about this self-compassion business and I’d like to think that the taglines adorning my family’s annual reunion shirts aren’t so weird after all.
Instead, I’ll argue they are a little doses of self-compassion where we laugh at past mistakes, celebrate embarrassing moments and rejoice in what it means to be human – and a family.
Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.