Все счастливые семьи похожи друг на друга, каждая несчастливая семья несчастлива по-своему. (All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.) – Lev Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
As promised, today’s blog post is about how my current family is so very different than the one into which I was born. Tolstoy’s famous quotation aside, most of us seem destined to repeat the mistakes of our fathers (meaning, contrary to Tolstoy, all unhappy families are similar). However, I took a good long hard look at what I didn’t like about my family life and set out to make some major changes.
Among them is communication. For a myriad of reasons, my birth family never communicated well. To this day, we still don’t. My mom will be sitting across from me, texting my sister, who will then call me with the latest “news.” I once half joked to her that we probably won’t even be invited to my dad’s funeral because the carrier pigeon will have gotten lost along the way. To say my birth family’s communication is dysfunctional is like saying Times Square is crowded.
One of the things that simply wasn’t tolerated when my sister and I were young were emotional outbursts. Now, however, I’m lucky if a day goes by when I don’t have one. It’s not that I roam around terrorizing my kids and coworkers; I simply cannot (or will not) hide my true feelings. I’ve eaten enough of them along the decades. I’m full, thank you very much.
So, the other morning when my daughter was sick and giving me her sass mouth, I started yelling and cursing, my son started pleading that we both shut up, my daughter burst into tears and ran to her room, followed by my son. I was making a quiche, which I continued making so it would be ready for a post-present breakfast. My dad had pretty much “turtled” (literally shading his ears with his cupped hands); my mom just sat quietly (taking it all in? just ignoring the shenanigans?). Finally, I called for my son (I didn’t know he’d gone with his sister, probably to comfort her). Anyhow, to make a long story short, I told my daughter to stop crying and try not to ruin Christmas. I knew she was sick, but I was under enough stress without her getting all uppity with me. She dried her tears, coughed through her feverish body, returned to open her presents. All was as if nothing had ever happened.
It was when my daughter was feeling better that she reminded me of my parents’ reaction to our fight. Ironically she told me this shortly after we had all had a very nice family gathering with their dad involved (something my mother doesn’t comprehend, that the ex and I actually get along quite well). My daughter said, “Grandpa doesn’t get it. I’m going to yell. You’re going to yell. One of us will start crying. Yuri will tell me to stop being mean. Then we’ll get over it and move on. That’s just what we do.”
And she’s right. It’s not the most psychologically sound way of dealing with our troubles, but at least we always know where the other person stands. There’s very little holding onto grievances, because everything gets aired right then and there. We have many fights, but very few secrets.
And if I am to be completely honest, the three of us are pretty damn happy together, enjoying far more laughs than tears. That’s just what we do.