Christmas is a time for family. What does your family mean to you? Can you put a value on it? Do you put them above anything else and where do you draw the line in terms of loyalty and commitment? After all we all have a breaking point.
I have always been proud of wearing my familial closeness firmly on my sleeve. I frequently advocate the need to talk and am proud of an open communication with my teens that has been born of a habit from my own relationship with my parents.
Sometimes, however, there is a line that is crossed and it’s tough to stay true to those values of appreciation of familial closeness that come naturally from simply being a mother, father, daughter, son, sister or brother.
I recently followed a young man who was having a conversation on his phone with a person who transpired to be his brother. The brother had had an argument with their parents and the young man I was following was simultaneously apologising for not being in touch, while reassuring his brother that his lack of contact was not because he was taking sides and that whatever the outcome of his brother’s argument with said parents he was there for him.
A familiar scenario to everyone the world over no doubt and one that of course sparked from me a few smiles, nods of recognition and much more.
Who is my family? Well ours is a blended family comprising my husband and teens. My eldest, my son from my first marriage and my youngest, my daughter from my current marriage. Then there are my parents and my sister.
My parents are a strong influence in my life. They are old school, of the generation that met in their teens, married and had my sister and I in their twenties, are now close to their diamond wedding anniversary and still youthful in their 70’s. A situation that many of us can now probably only wonder at, yet alone aspire to.
My mother comes from a large family and has 11 siblings which means I have more cousins and half cousins than I can count and sadly many that I have lost contact with. My childhood was filled with family gatherings, the details of which I still smile at even now. There was a party for everything. My grandparents always the matriarchs to be revered and admired.
Like all families there have been on a polite level, differences of opinion and on a base level, blazing arguments aplenty, but the value of familial ties has always remained strong.
Life takes over of course and those bonds dissipate due to different circumstances or location and family gatherings are less frequent with funerals becoming the more dominant connective, filled with promises of keeping in touch that of course never happen.
Blood is thicker than water is a well-worn expression but one that stays true whatever generation or family make-up we fall into and while it is not always possible to replicate those halcyon moments of our own youth, I was warmed by something my father said about my own teens that reassured me that family comes first.
At a recent family dinner he noted the affection and support between my teens. Apart now because of my eldest being at university, he noticed their natural inclination to each other when reunited, their adherence to each other’s words, their hugs, their shared jokes and laughter, their mutual support of each other’s dreams and anxieties.
Any parent will know how valuable it is to receive praise about their children and their behaviour as they grow up. As a parent of a teen, however, your fear is that as they spread their wings they will forget the value of the family ties you tried so hard to instill and my father’s observance of these very simple acts filled me with hope for the future of my family, with or without me.