Erma Bombeck made a fortune writing about them. Sitcoms spoof them. Barrels of ink have been spilled and miles of film shot bringing them to page and screen.
As individuals, we love ?em and sometimes even hate ?em. Sometimes simultaneously. And there’s nothing like a holiday get-together to bring those feelings to the fore. I’m talking, of course, about family. Families in general and ours specifically.
No doubt each of us spent some time with family over the Easter holiday. It likely included extended family and perhaps hours of travel. We were either guests or hosts and surely that affected the degree of angst or pleasure we felt.
How well the experience went is in large measure how well we expected it to go. Would Uncle So-and-so drink too much and get nasty? Would sister insist that only she knows the truth on any and every issue? Would the family critic nitpick us all to death?
If all the memories of holidays past are painful, a degree of self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in and adds one more bad time to the heap. Likewise, if family means unconditional love and support then anticipation of more of the same ensures that such will be the result.
Years ago Kevin Leman wrote The Birth Order Book, and unless You’re an only child you fall into the first-born, middle child, or baby position complete with all the dynamics that entails.
In addition, we’ve all got history within our families. Some of us are the proverbial black sheep, with all that means. Some of us are screw-ups. Some of us are roaring success stories. Most of us feel a little like a fraud?pretending to be something we’re not, playing the old roles we’ve been cast in, feeling far different from who we project, hoping not to be exposed. If only this baggage would go missing.
Maybe the most any of us can hope for is the maturity and wisdom to love and accept those around us, flaws and all. The odds of any of us truly changing our basic makeup and outlook are as likely as a leopard changing its spots. What you see is what you get. We can stop playing our expected role, especially if we’re not happy with how it makes us or others feel.
We can go to the next gathering with realistic expectations of ourselves and everyone else. We can treat the people closest to us in the world with at least as much respect as we do the grocery store cashier. We can model the behaviour we wish our children were exhibiting because those damn kids mirror us?both the moments that make us beam with pride and the ones that make us cringe with déjà vu.
If life offered do-overs I’d change how I acted this past weekend. I would’ve been more tolerant during a group discussion and kept at least one thought to myself. The next big thing will be my mom’s 75th birthday. Another chance to appreciate those in my life, another chance to do things better, another chance to change my role. I can hardly wait, from where I sit.