I’ve never quite understood the adage : “blood is thicker than water” and judging by the number of rifts between family members it’s not one that I feel comfortable with. I’m conflicted as my mind meanders down memory lane recalling the times when I felt hurt and betrayed by kith and kin.
There have been many occasions when I’ve felt let down by my nearest and not so dearest. I’ve been missed off their wedding invitation list despite sending them invitations to mine. I’ve also not attended many of their coming of age birthday parties, engagements, christenings and other such occasions of family merriment. However, I note that there is always an open invitation to family funerals (and I’m never keen on those!).
The problems of extended family can be insurmountable. My own issues are a microcosm on the family richter scale as mine are small in number (though no less deadly when riled). They are scattered all over the world and I have no burning desire to hook up with them – by telephone, email, snail mail or the dreaded SKYPE. We may all be individuals tied by blood but that’s where the similarity ends. We have grown up in different ways and with different influences so there is little we have by way of common ground – sad yet true.
If you come from a close-knit family then you’re fortunate and I hope that my little brood will all support each other through to adulthood. Acute dysfunction reigns amongst a good many parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins and respective inlaws. The prospect of an amicable gathering under one roof is remote – Little House on the Prairie it is not! Hopefully time will soften stony hearts and faces or a TV debut on the “Jeremy Kyle”show!
Celebrity families are no less immune to familial impediments. Many a father / daughter, mother /son relationship has run aground and estrangement ensues. Just a few years ago, Angelina Jolie’s famous father (Jon Voight) believed his daughter to have “mental issues” when she first started on her child adoption crusade. They have since reconciled but it not's easy to forgive or forget. Hurtful remarks can do lasting damage.
There’s a misconception about families being a forum for unconditional love. We’re told that love is unconditional and then find little or no demonstration of it from our parents. We’re loved but only if we’re a “a good boy or girl”. We’re loved if we work hard at school and get good grades. We’re loved if we choose the right friends. None of the above terms are unconditional!
Its no wonder the youth are confused and disillusioned as they compete for affection and recognition. Family is now part of the rat race and that’s why communication has broken down. There’s something wrong with the models we’ve inherited from our forefathers.
Being less judgemental is the first step towards family harmony. We have to leave our grievances at the door. We’ve no idea what it is to walk in our brother’s shoes but we can help carry his load. Being there is just to be an open ear or a comforting presence. Keeping your mouth shut is more help than you know although they'll be more than willing to share the harsh and bitter truth with you - they can dish it out but can't always take it. Choose your words carefully otherwise you’ll be eating them. Always follow the golden rule: don’t borrow money (though you could ask for a gift!).
Never criticise anyone's spouse, children, clothes, hair, house or car – they’ll hold it against you forever and recount it at every Christmas, Easter & Thanksgiving. Resist the temptation to make family member feel as if you know them better than they know themselves. Families - you can't choose 'em but you can lose 'em with loose words and dirty looks!
You can try walking in their shoes but don’t complain when you get bunions. They and you are different though connected by the same bloodline. Live in between that paradox, keep a sense of humour and relations will be good. You can laugh with them but not at them. Remember, over the years, blood thins and when they're in need.......no matter what.....they'll always be a bl**** nusiance!