Literature is news that stays news.

~ Ezra Pound ~

Family Is All Relative

December 21st, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 26 secs

Family the way it’s portrayed.

You’ve got to hand it to family. Without it, you wouldn’t be here. With it, you might be wishing you had something better.

Which is exactly what happens in a family, thanks to lots of challenging situations. They’re everywhere. But you could be forgiven for thinking your family has harder challenges than others. After all, discomfort hurts most when it’s yours.

Let me say, parents with teens: you are not alone. Those with little children? We know! And how about those who care for someone infirm? Every family carries its own set of burdens and the reality is they’re  considerable.

Right now, when people are winding up for Christmas and all things familial are taking center place, family challenges often raise their head. As if, the intensity of the season gives sufficient reason to ramp things up.

Nobody will be surprised if the cook looks worse for wear from oversampling the cooking sherry. Nor will anyone raise an eyebrow at kids pesting, as their list of demands continues to expand. Then, when the extended familial step in, looking to join in the festivities (but not necessarily the effort), the stage is predictably set for holiday hijinks of the worst kind.

Inevitably, family politics will play its part. Things will regrettably be said, feelings miffed, and tears will be shed. Funny how festivities can bring up so much that lies dormant in a family’s past year.

But when all that pressure to be cheery hits a triggering shrill note, everything starts falling apart. Yet, even then, amidst all the damage, family life can handle such challenges surprisingly well. True, it takes time to overcome the tensions. But, gradually, everyone comes back to earth and generally life goes on again:  together, imperfect, yet grounding.

Naturally, we like our family to be more like the nice ones we see on TV. Or, at least, like the virtually perfect ones we sometimes meet. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Your own family has its particular set of challenges and, like it or lump it, you’ve got to work them out for yourself.

Surprisingly though, a lot of what’s bad can also be a catalyst for a tremendous amount of good. For instance, family struggles teach compassion, forbearance, and plenty of humility. For instance, you cannot succeed in being vain and arrogant with teens. They simply won’t allow it.

Likewise, we are forced to face our weaknesses, fears, and decide what we really think (as opposed to what we thought). In that way, family life is a huge test where we often discover the sense of compromise.

For anyone reading who happen to have a perfect family, with perfect children, and a perfect partner, let me suggest this: come back later when things aren’t going so splendidly. Because human perfection is just an illusion.

For you and I, family challenges are part of the deal and, ultimately, it’s okay that way. Not that we want arguments, bickering, and hassle. But because the spin offs of belonging far outweigh the negatives (even more than we think).

In family, we get some of our sense of identity through each other. Even when we barely feel it, our feeling of shared belonging shapes us enormously. We are who we are because (and, sometimes, in spite of) our family. But whatever our family possesses or lacks, it’s something we can build on… and because of it, aim to make even better.


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