This past weekend, we celebrated my Grandma’s 90th Birthday at my parents farm. Most of the family were able to make it and although it was a wet, rainy time, fun was had by all. I have been saving, and editing, this post for awhile now, and wanted to start on that note. I think at my Grandma’s age, nothing else does matter; just family.
I may not be the first to admit it, but I am not perfect. My siblings are often quite keen to point this out, usually because I would like them, and everyone else, to think I am perfect. However, my siblings are also not perfect, and the imperfections we each have, have lead not only to much debate and temporary debacles, but to stronger relationships amongst ourselves. It has not always been easy to get along with my family, but it has always been worth it.
They say you do not get to choose your family, but you do continuously make choices, both personal and in regard to each family member, that ultimately shape the relationships you have with those people. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to have much in common without even trying, such as thinking exactly alike, every time. Other times, even the most minute difference of opinion, compounded by what seems like a lifetime of dispute, leads you to wonder “how do we ever get along?!”. I don’t think you need to be best friends with those in your family, or even friends at all, but you should be nice to one another. My favourite cliche* for dealing with family “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.
Of course ones family is also a great, and often needed, source of constructive criticism. Nevertheless it is important for the giver of said criticism to remember the constructive part. As with anything, pointing out or complaining about something is not useful unless you also offer a solution (*if you’re not part of the solution…).
That leads me to my next thought: forgiveness. Sometimes you need to forgive a person, even in the absence of an apology; I particularly believe this when it comes to family members. Perhaps, they do not know what they did, or they at least do not realize that it has upset you so much. And if you do not let the other person know specifically what they did, and that you want an apology, then you are at least part of the problem.
One should love family unconditionally. It’s true that this is not always easy, but it’s often essential. Communication classes have taught me that a great way to start thinking unconditionally about people is to think (and speak) in “I” terms. Such as “I feel this way when they do/say this”, or “I don’t like when they _____”; “YOU” statements are not only not helpful, they back people into a corner and put them into defense mode. Separating the action from the person, in your own mind, can be quite useful when communicating needs, wants and feelings. It can help to remind oneself that it is often what someone does that makes you feel the way you do. You still make the choice to act the way you do, even if it’s the only action you see at the moment. Sometimes not reacting is the best action. For me, this is often the hardest part – to not react. I take a step back and I vent to a different family member!
My last thought for tonight is
unfortunately another cliche: kill them with kindness. I say this because I think that should be the last thing you do, when all else fails, with family. Kindness will result in disarmament, while snide remarks will only widen the distance between common grounds. If you are kind, at the end of the day, you are less likely to still have anger in your heart. Note: you do not need to go out of your way to be kind; only if and when you meet. The Golden Rule, one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself, also comes to mind…but I digress.
So why does family matter? Because they are the only family you have.
To my family – I love you all :)