FAMILY … FRIEND OR FOE?

This is a bit of strange blog, but the words suddenly came into my mind and thought this is a subject which may resonate with many, because I wonder how many of you out there actually have a happy family? I am not talking about the basic unit: mother, father, siblings but more about the family as it grows, with aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws.

It was a childhood dream of mine to be part of a large family, being an only child until the age of 11. My father and mother both came from the north-west of England and were part of fairly large families. Even though they were only children themselves they seemed to have copious amounts of aunts, uncles and cousins and I remember that because all family trips up north involved the rounds of ‘visiting the relatives’. As a child this was boring for me as there were no young members of the family apart from a couple of my parents second cousins. I did not have any aunts, uncles, or cousins myself.

One thing that always happened during these family visits was, even as a child, I noticed that they all gossiped so much about the other family members and their spouses (which is often the biggest problem in families all round). They would all tell stories of someone said this, someone said that and all in all, for me as a child, it was so dull.

When my parents married, they moved down to the southeast of London and all family contact was by letter. My nana would write every week with news to her daughter (my mother) and vice versa. Almost unthinkable in today’s age of internet and smartphones and of course, not forgetting the big foe WhatsApp! All communication these days seems to be through this medium and I can only admit I use it myself, even with my own children.

Letter writing is a thing of the past, even in the business world.  Everything goes through ‘communication channels’ on the net.

When I moved away to Europe and had my own family at first, I was quite pleased with the new family members I had acquired, prior to the birth of my own children. But again, I noticed that same non-stop talking about those who were not present. My new in-laws had the same issues and so much so, that my mother-in-law had no contact whatsoever with her brother who lived only a few miles away. She and her sister were constantly at odds about such trivial things, so this was not only a British issue, but also a European one too. The same applied to cousins and aunts and uncles. So that is my big question is a family a friend or a foe?

Of course, there are families out there who all get along wonderfully, so there must be an exception to the rule somewhere surely?

When the Christmas film season starts, it is all about amazing families who all descend on their relatives and have a wonderful Christmas time, but do they for real? I doubt it.

Recently my horoscope has been inundated with messages about letting go of people from my past and would you believe it, it is actually happening! I have had words with not only a couple of relatives, but also some friends. Is it because we are less tolerant with one another, caused by the worldwide situation or is it just that we get older and wiser and suddenly what was a good friendship say 25 years ago, suddenly goes sour and why?

To my mind the biggest problem is the gossip. You know, ‘he said, she said’ and then the story gets totally filtered. It is a bit like that game we used to play at school called ‘Chinese Whispers’. Someone would start a simple story, one sentence only and they whisper it to the person next to them and so on all around the circle. What was said by the last person had absolutely nothing to do with the original sentence at all.

We all filter every single piece of information we receive, either in the written or spoken word and make our own interpretation of things. It’s a human trait. And we all do it! Whether you think you do or not!

One of the cousins, ‘cold side’ as we say, had a real ‘carp on’ about things with me. I could go on and write a reply but to be honest, can I really be bothered? No, so simple answer is to block any chance that they keep rambling on. Can’t remember the last time I actually saw them in person to be honest and have I really missed them, no is the answer. And of course as tempting as it is to get into an exchange, just remember this: reaction is action!

It is sad that this happens but there seem to be many people who have this experience. They grow up with siblings and all is well, but the moment, they get partners and their own family unit, there seems to be nothing but gossip and troubles. It only takes two wives or two brothers not to get one and off you go, the family starts to split.

I think personally it is a good thing to be honest and speak your mind, but how far do you go? If you are the type who is like this, the answer may be too far in the end, because you cannot tolerate the b.s. anymore. 

Another thing I have noticed is that when people in families have problems, like health, for example, this is the hardest test ever who takes the time to keep in contact. Yes, yes, I know we all lead busy busy lives, but is a phone call occasionally too much? 

The cousin I mentioned above, lives less than an hour from me. His cousin is terminally ill and in the past 20 months he has only called once. Blamed the lack of contact on Corona, and yes this is to a certain extent true, but you can’t catch Corona through the telephone line. Instead, he rambled on, several long app messages about this and that, a load of excuses and genuine rubbish and then the decision was made to sever the cord and let it go. Yes, you can get yourself into a tizzy and want to say this and that but adding fuel to flames which are already on fire, really has no purpose at all.

Brave are those who hold their heads even higher and don’t get tempted to reply.

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Jill Kramer

Hi! I'm Jill and I'm a passionate author of books, short stories, columns and blogs.

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