DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I grew up in a single-parent military family. My mom was not ever close with her family outside of one of her grandmas, which is part of the reason she joined the Air Force right out of high school. We moved every two or three years, and when my mom was not working, she was taking classes for first a bachelor’s and then a master’s.
My mom has made a good life for herself and me, but we neither of us have had much of a social life. Even now she barely socializes with people other than old Air Force buddies.
I grew up a shy and self-contained person. When I met my boyfriend, we were the opposites that attract. Not that he is super loud or obnoxious in any way. He is just outgoing and self-confident, and gets along with everyone he meets.
He also comes from a huge, warm, and totally welcoming family, in which everyone seems to stay closely connected.
I have been to his parents’ and grandparents’ houses for a few family gatherings and celebrations, including some last holiday time. I always end up feeling like a fly on the wall rather than a participant in the action.
My boyfriend knows I do not have much of any experience being in this kind of loving, if loud environment. So he does not push me to go to the gatherings, which I love about him, but I can also see they mean so much to him, especially during the holiday time of year when he gets to spend a few days back at his home.
How do I find a way to fit into a world I have never been in before? --- NOT WHERE I’M FROM
DEAR NOT WHERE I’M FROM: Your boyfriend saw something in you that appealed to him. Perhaps those qualities will over time help you find a spot in his big, tight family.
To start though, when you’re at one of the get-togethers, it could help to focus on getting to know one or two individuals who may appear less at the heart of the party, rather than feeling you have to mix and mingle with everyone on hand.
Gradually becoming familiar with small segments of the clan — one at a time, at a pace comfortable to you — is potentially your key to finding your place within it.