Thursday, January 14, 2010

The only people you can't choose

The person that says they have an effortless relationship with their family is full of shit.

It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I am with my family. It took a lot of hard work and compromise, and most importantly, forgiveness. Lots and lots of forgiveness.

My sisters and I used to divide ourselves like political factions, and we were just as cutthroat. There was so much infighting and backstabbing, and physical and emotional harm that seemed beyond repair. My brother had his share of bad judgment calls, too, when it came to dealing with the very delicate dynamics of sibling rivalry.

My father and I have our share of differences (we agree more than he realizes, only I don't think we speak the same language all the time). My mom and I are super close, but I think that's mostly because we have an understanding: she doesn't take any of my shit, and when she thinks I'm being an ass, she says so, to my face. With my mom, there is no drama.

But when you get older, things change. Priorities change. I left my hometown to get a degree, and that distance made my relationships with my siblings and my parents a lot easier. I also helped me find my convictions and the courage to fight for them.

And then later, when you get even older, you get married. Then, your family grows like bacteria on a toilet seat. All of the sudden you have twice as many siblings as you did before, albeit there is a different dynamic. In-laws don't have the same shared history you have with their spouses. They will never experience the things that you've shared first-hand.

And then even later, when you're freaking ancient, you or your siblings might have kids. Then you're like a bunch of fucking lemmings. You're seemingly inescapable. Family is everywhere, and like I said before, family relationships need a lot of water and sunlight.

Eventually you'll have a disagreement with a family member, like I had today. It could be one of those knock-down-drag-out fights that end in a family feud. It could also be something less severe, something that stews. I have more experience with the latter than the former, especially considering how many sisters I have. (My dad encouraged his girls to settle disagreements "like men" on the condition that we took our glasses off first. Cuts and bruises heal, but glasses are expensive.)

Needless to say, I won't be settling this argument with a brawl. Instead I'll opt for forgiveness.

That and plenty of water and sunshine.


awmb said...

I hate to break it to you, but I've don't really have that experience with my family. I am an only child, and my parents just sort of let me do my thing. Other than the adolescent teenage drama, my family was pretty good. But then again, I'm not very close with my relatives, including my parents. This makes me want to put in more effort.

Miss Dallas said...

Everyone's family and their situations are different, of course.

Because you were an only child you didn't get to experience the fabulousness of sibling rivalry (it really kind of blows, actually).

And when it comes to relationships, especially with family, effort is a two way street. Sometimes it comes easily, sometimes it takes a little time to open the lines of communication fully.

No matter what, it's always worth trying.

Kyla Roma said...

I would like to clap for this post. I've had a very rocky, fractured family life and it just seems to be escalating, the only thing that's helped is trying to be more graceful and more forgiving, and having a better sense of humour.

And wine. Only not at the gatherings, after.

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

I consider my relationship with my family effortless, but I also have an almost unnatural ability to tune out my mother's criticisms. I didn't always have that ability, and Josh isn't there yet, so he pick up on a lot of things I don't notice anymore. Being an only child though I have a lot of leverage in normalizing my parents' behavior.

wanderingtex said...

You are way more zen about family than I am - I need to practice the whole forgiveness thing, along with not taking everything personally. But moving away from home was prob one of the best things I could do for me and my sister's relationship.