Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Loving my Brazilian Family

My youngest and his Great-Grandparents

This weekend we have the spreading of the ashes of Mr. Rant's Grandmother. Even though she passed last December she has been in on our minds, especially this week.

I can't shake my thoughts of her and the family that surrounded her.

Given Mr. Rant's family and I have had our trials and tribulations. That, in fact, doesn't even begin to explain the Brazilian soap opera of the relationship we've had. Although I think all foreigners married to a Brazilian go through this feeling at one point or another.

But that is what my overly romanticized brain is circling. Regardless of my or their reactions, we remain a family. There is no silent treatment or overt smack-talking. You have your disagreements and your history.  It's a fact of life. That only makes the relationship stronger.

I have gone through hell and back with my husband's family. We have experienced events, such as Mr. Rant's near death experience, that most families never do. None-the-less, we are together.

In some blogs they may warn you about marrying a Brazilian. You are marrying their family. It's no lie. As one person told me, there's no such thing as an ex-Mother but there is an ex-wife.  I swear on my old collection of US Magazines, that was a true statement!

But there is an unsaid beauty to it. They are your family as well. If you are willing to own them as they own you, you will never face something alone. Ok, I can't say that but they will show up eventually and they will give you a force you never expected.

As I grow older I think of that damn cliché of a song, Wear Sunscreen.

Honestly, there's so much good advice there. At 30 it's like the rules of how to live. And Brazilians own it. They dance, they don't worry about their body (or if they do they still manage to enjoy the one they have), they know their parents, they keep their friends, and they love their siblings.

They also listen to the stories of their elders. My husband adores talking to his 93 year old Grandfather and taking pictures of him with his Great-Grandchildren. The Grandmother fills us in on their life stories and how to keep a marriage together. FYI: She says the key is having sex with them every time they want it. ?!

This connection between the ages and the interactions between all members of a diverse group of family are two of my favorite things about living in this country. I also feel it's the best thing I've given my children as a Mother. I have given them their history, a culture of a people, and stories to tell to their children. What else is there? 


  1. Yeah, I am not too crazy about the whole Brazilian family proximity thing. It just seems to me that if one side of the family isn't hypercompetitive about "getting" the couple then they will eventually spend very little time with said couple. I have found that it is normally the wife's family that feels entitled to couple and offspring and the husband's side kind of has to stand it's ground, or else pretty much get the boot. Not to mention that all of this it ends being a strain on the couple

    Each to his own I guess. I definitely prefer how American families function, just seems healthier.

  2. The Gritty Poet,

    It totally depends on the family, sometimes it's the husband and sometimes it's the wife's, it also depends on the couple.


    What exactly is healthier about the way American families function?


  3. My family in the States lives and breathes, but we do not function...

    Over the 24 years I lived in San Francisco my brother visited (from Michigan) once, my sister visited once and my mother visited twice. If not for my sister, I would not know my brother has three beautiful children. Never a birthday card, never a Christmas card, certainly never an anniversary card.

    And we say we all love each other very much. There is no conflict.

    But this is NIGHT AND DAY compared to Luiz's family here in Brazil. While daily visits to or from my MIL is mind bending to me -- I'll take it over the silence.

  4. My family and I all live within ten minutes of each other and yet we can't even get together for a holiday or family function w/o an argument of some sort beginning or you can bet on it that someone will call someone and gossip about something afterwards.

    I am nothing like anyone in my family, I want a DNA test and I want it now!

    I have decided many times not to even attend family functions because they are toxic to my life. And I can't wait for the day when my youngest is in college and I can move away from here and all of them. And I make a point to tell them this as well when they make me angry because they drive me crazy!

    They take my love for Rio and blast me for it. I hate living here in the south where people are so closed minded and what church you go to is your social status.

    I would take the love of a Brazilian family over my dysfunctional one any day!

  5. Dutch people living in villages can be much like Brazilian families. They are not sticky or intrusive, but you are supposed to celebrate holidays together - ALWAYS. And pass by on the weekends. And call. I live like 200m away from my in-laws and my husband feels like passing by his parents at least twice or three times a week. And he complains that this is not enough. Awk !

  6. My family is spread out over the states. One of my Brothers is still not talking to me because of the Christmas blog post. And amazingly, we are still arguing (his words) even though we don't talk. Now the issue is that my children are favored over his. Don't know how this is possible seeing that I'm on a different continent.

    I don't know about you but I get annoyed with how some people attempt to make up excuses to keep distance between them and others. THat wouldn't fly down here. We get a sigh if we don't drive all the way out to my in-law's place in the country EVERY weekend. But it's only because they miss us...

  7. In the working class families, I have noticed mothers get claims to their childern. And there is often like braining washing of the fathers side of the family. I have seen people tell childern, "repeat after me, 'the food is better here, here is better and I don't want to go back there'". Yeah scary.

    But, I definitely think that it's is very personal difference and it depends on the family.

    And I think how much a family accepts you into their family depends on the family structure and class. I have a lot of difficulties with mil because she wont accept me as family.

    AND thinks that my husband should not be married to any woman. My MIL and I are not in the best situation because she accounced at a party that "Ricardo should not be married nor should any other man in her family. Only the women need to get married" while I was sitting right next to her. I really felt disrespected.

    Mainly she doesn't like me because she is really controlling. She needs to control everything. I am sorry but I can not let her control me. I won't let anyone do that. So unless I do that I can forget about it.

    So for me the situation is difficult. Luckily for me Ricardo understands, he would never admit his mother is wrong but sees the hardship and gives me a break. Otherwise good bye marriage. That's it, like Rachel said ex-mom don't exist.

    It's kinda of interesting I feel like a relationship like this: Ricardo is the birth son of MIL and I am the stepmother walking on egg shells. I do, I feel this way and don't understand.

    And yes, I have some great criticism of American structure. I was told by my uncle's ex-wife that I could not go to my cousin graduation party whom both I was super close to. Why? My ex-aunt got remarried and my cousin thus had a new family.

    My father is remarried now wont give me the time of day. Basicly, Brazil family is by blood and U.S. family is by marriage.

    I think your pretty lucky to get married into a accepting family Rachel.
    This is one of the best things for adapting well into the culture if you come to Brazil by marriage.

  8. Wow Nina! Ouch! Good for you for sticking it out. Amazing what love can do, huh.

    As I said in above, I have my own history with the family. It is not all pretty, at all. Of course, I was never openly disrespected like that! Well, not that openly.

    Don't let her control you and you are a step ahead because you've accepted that he will never say something against his Mother. I still have issues with that one. She is right. Always right or just won't say the wrong out loud. Ah well, I'm sure being the saint is just as difficult...

  9. Biting my tongue is not my strong suit but I quick coping lesson learned. However I have my limits too. When it comes to raising my future kids it will not be so easy biting the tongue. This is something I have already discussed with Ricardo. He also doesn't agree with Mil all the time.

  10. Hi Ray,

    So to answer the question you posed.

    "What exactly is healthier about the way American families function?"

    I think the way American society functions, and by extension American families, fosters a sense of individuality that in general is sorely lacking in Brazilian society. This has two huge advantages: people respect personal space, plus a person has an acute sense of their individuality, they know who they are and with this knowledge have a greater chance of finding someone that is really suited for them instead of being or looking for an appendage just for the sake of not being single. In a society such as the American one being single, doing your own thing, is not frowned upon. Also, as I said before, there is an understanding about personal space and a private life. So it is less likely to witness, for example, a mother announcing that her male offspring should not get married, in public, and in front of one of their wives.

    I say, if you want to marry a Brazilian, find the registry of a local orphanage to see who grew up there and today is about your age. Skip the Catholic ones though, if not you might have the nuns coming over for visits :-).

  11. I see your points, Poet, and I would just add that my mother's lover for the past 20 years is an active Immaculate Heart of Mary nun. So I have disfunction AND nuns in the mix.

    Não é facil.

  12. Jim, now you're the saint!

    Gritty, I get the independence thing. I'm lucky because Mr. Rant is naturally independent. Almost an I'll cut my nose off before openly asking for help kind. But I know others who totally fall prey to the inter-dependence thing.

    At the same time, the families here are so used to each other that they don't have a fight every get together. Well, of course that depends on the family. Some special families will regardless of the country of origin.

  13. Well the USA has changed a lot. More about paradigms of time. There was a time when we were more involved with each other's lives both in family and community.

    Actually, there is even a period of art where homes were painted more open, open windows and doors inviting people in and/or families actaully hanging out the windows gossiping and talking with people who past by.

    Plus, I don't think being single is always "ok" in American society.

  14. Jim,

    My mom was pretty much raised by the Order of the Imaculate Nuns of Mary (she went to boarding school). Hence, by extension, those nuns have also been a part of my life (nice garments I must say).

    So to your "não é facil" I respond with an efusive "boa sorte" (yes, I know, the words in a text that are foreign should be in Italics and not in quotation marks, but I can't find them so stop being such a nun!). :-)

  15. Poet - I agree with you about the American independent credo. Living here in Brazil, the whole dependency thing often drives me crazy. I did the typical American thing of moving out at 18, being on my own, working, doing undergrad, grad school...blah blah blah. Because of that, I feel comfortable being alone in new situations or environments. Hence, my prior solo trips to Brazil that eventually led to this point in my life.

    In the states, if you still live with your parents or depend on them too much after adulthood, there is much shame involved. Over here in Brazil, it is considered normal (our American independent ways are "abnormal").

    I remember when I was first dating my (future) wife, my BIL once seriously asked me, "why are you Americans so independent?" That moment has always stuck in my head as a reminder of how much our cultures differentiate.

    Don't get me wrong, I do love the Brazilian family closeness...but only in controlled doses! LOL!

    Rachel- Elder family members are a precious treasure that should always be adored. I will always remember my discussions with my 102 year old grandpa before he passed away. I took many photos and even recorded his voice so my son can hear them when he gets little older.

  16. I dont understand why people complain about the spouse's family so much. Family for me is a good thing! I enjoy spending time w them....some commenters here make it sound like family is a bad thing.....(good luck when u get old and your children decide they also think family is evil!*)

    *I am not talking about you rachel but to some people who prefer to be left alone than to be w family..