Monday, March 21, 2011

alpha vs. submissive

I'm reading Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series right now (why I haven't read these books before, I have no freaking clue...they're fantastic). So, it got me thinking about my family dynamics and what's been going on in my house and the alpha role.

First, I have to say I'm one of four sisters. If I'd been asked who the alpha in my family was when I was a child, I would have said my father. Certainly, he was the one who meted punishments and we were all sufficiently cowed by him. But I would have been wrong. My mother is the alpha in our family. My father is her second - her enforcer, so to speak. He does what she says, and when he doesn't she makes him pay. Its in interesting thing to realize. It is a rare occasion when one of us challenges her - and the results usually aren't pretty. (Actually, I'm really the only one who can do it and walk away - so to speak.)

Within my sisters and I, I would have said I was submissive - maybe even the most submissive of us. Again, I would be wrong. Oh, I'm not saying I don't act submissive. I prefer to have others take the lead. Until I don't. Yesterday, I got a call from one sister who needed advice about work. Then I got a call from another sister for advice about her daughter. And it dawned on me. I'm the one they all call (including my mother and father) when they need someone as a sounding board. I'm the one they all use to reason out things and help them determine what the best move is. In addition, when one of us needs to be put in their place, I'm the one that does it. And yet, I don't look to any of them for anything. I make my decisions on my own. Does that make me the alpha? Or the alpha in training? I think maybe it does.

And then I looked at my husband's family. He's the youngest of four (3 boys, 1 girl). There is no question that his mother is uber alpha. The only photos she has of her children fit in a single shoe box - and in all of them, she is front and center. She rules their family with a powerful hand. All of her childrens' bedrooms remain just as they left them - even tho all of them have been married for at least 18 years. She told me its so they always know they can come home. She and I have battled over everything since day one. Not that I don't like her. I just won't be pushed around by her. And the rest of the family either is annoyed by this or is impressed by it. My father in law is the most submissive man I've ever met. When I first started dating my husband, I was horrified by the way he was treated. I remember specifically one day telling them all to cut it out and treat him with respect. I remember them all looking at me with surprise (like they couldn't believe I'd stand up for him) but they did what I demanded.

I would say, in his family, my husband is the second, with the others falling below him and my f-i-l at the bottom. They all rely on my husband in the same way my family relies on me, but he is extremely subservient to his mother. He won't make any decision without her opinion. It's created some tricky moments for us, because I don't care about her opinion at all.

Finally, there is my own little pack - my husband, my son and myself. I'm most definitely the alpha in my house. Well...for now. I let my husband make a lot of decisions, and I'm content with that. Until I'm not. He always backs down. But I find myself in an interesting position, because my 16 yr. old son is an alpha. He's a strong alpha. He's already bumped my husband down a notch. And he's starting to try to boss me - refusing to do what I 'suggest'. It's....fascinating. Will I win or will he? Who will come out on top? I don't know. But it could be a real pain in the ass for me finding out.

So have you ever looked at your family dynamics like that? And where do you rank?

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