What would we do with them? What would we do without them? I had a few chats with friends over the past couple of days about their dysfunctional families and it was interesting to feel that as a whole, we’re not alone.
Some family members go to selfless lengths to ensure that other family members don’t need to deal with certain issues. One friend lost her father in recent months, and since he’s been gone, she now realises how much her father covered the mental illness of her mother for the sake of ensuring that his children didn’t have to deal with it on a regular basis. Now he is gone, her mother is unbearable, uncontrollable and my friend doesn’t want anything to do with her because she is rehashing old hurts. The verbal abuse she creates is getting painfully worse and she can’t stand being in the same room as her. She has ruled out the possibility of counselling to sort out their differences, but her mother is beyond help, she doesn’t see the point. She is so thankful for her father for protecting her from what could have been a tumultuous life, but she still wakes up from nightmares of her mother doing things to her.
Another friend is the middle child of five, and is very protective of her mother. She knows her mother was the strong one in her parent’s marriage – the decision maker, the worker, the accountant, the parent, while her father worked, but didn’t want to know about the children or finances, and gambled plenty on the side. Her mother opened a restaurant to keep the family fed, as if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have known how to keep their family afloat. Every child in the family worked in that restaurant from their mid teens to almost their mid thirties. Her father died just before they sold the restaurant, but they now have a strong bond of friendship and support between her siblings and her mother, it is truly amazing to see. (but they still have a few hardships to deal with).
But I notice more than anything, that at this time of year we tend to tense up about family issues and dealing with past demons. Christmas is not a festive time for most. It’s a time that harmony can’t co-exist in the extended family rituals because new people get introduced within the family, events have happened over the year (or years) so some aren’t talking to others, judgement statements can be made, young cousins don’t get along together causing other upheavals within the family and most just don’t want to be there, but do so for the sake of their children.
In saying that, do we remind ourselves that we should be thankful that we actually have a family that’s willing to get together though good times and bad, when some have lost their family members to car accidents over the year or illness, and then others were orphaned as their parents have drug, alcohol or domestic violence issues, their parents could be in jail, they are in poverty so they don’t even celebrate Christmas, or simply they have no one in their lives who makes a difference. Maybe, we should all take a step back and be thankful that our family is there, even if it is in the smallest way…
So in saying all of that, I guess the best description of family that was redefined to me in the last few days is, the people who are the most important people in your family are you and your kids. The grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins…no one else matters except the well being of you and your children, as the other family members do or have with their children. You do what’s right for you and your kids first, even if it means boycotting Christmas or family occasions. You don’t go to family occasions to get ambushed, you go assuming that you will have a good time, animosity maybe resolved and your kids will be spoiled with love and gifts. But, if you ever fear it will not happen, don’t go, don’t put yourself and your children through the suffering, and if anyone has a problem with that, that’s their problem not yours.
Family really can be a beautiful thing… if only there was reciprocated love, support and acceptance, as family should really be.