Karla's Blog

This is my maiden voyage on the sea of blogging. Friends assure me that this is yet another way to become a published writer. I hope so!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Let's Put the Fun Back in Dysfunctional, Ya'll!

Sigh. Thanksgiving is over, and I am overjoyed. I think it's the dry run holiday that gets your feet wet for that special brand of Hell called Christmas with family. While being with family has its enjoyable moments, it is still a source of pain for most people. Well, for me anyway, and for many of my friends, and sisters too - read on.

I have 4 sisters - one who lives nearby-ish in my state, one in Ohio, one in Tennessee, and one in North Carolina. We are all in our 40's. ONE day spent with my parents can launch us right back into the same childhood dynamics that applied when we all lived in the same house. It's as if we simply transmogrify into the 5 little girls we once were. The same "fight" for approval from our parents, the same struggles for attention, the same issues of self-worth - they all come back like a scorching case of herpes. (thank you Ferris' sister)

We all know this too, and try as hard as we can NOT to be carried away by the old behaviors and feelings. But, it is an inexorable path - and we seem not to be able to escape its grip. We dance around it, feigning closeness and warmth, when all of us are ready at a moment's notice to dash away, grateful if we are unscathed - or as we like to call it, dodging familial bullets.

I end up feeling like I've run a marathon; I am tired, weak, and depressed. I try to look back at the time spent together, to see where I may have shared too much, or was just too vulnerable; what was it I said when I was summarily stomped upon and left a quivering mass?

Most of these feelings largely come from unresolved issues (what an over used phrase!) of our collective past. It's hard in a large family for anyone to have their needs fully met. It's interesting to note here, that while I was visiting over this holiday, I managed to read "Pecking Order" by Dalton Conley. The premise of this book is that it is not birth order that counts, as much as it is the number of children in the family. His exhaustive studies, interviews and surveys indicate that more than 3 children drain the two most critical family resources - money and time - to the point at which no child or parent seems to get what they need. This dearth of needs is what creates the leader, the loser, the lost child, etc., according to the dynamics of the family each child experienced. Great book, depressing as hell, and I do recommend reading it, for several reasons. First, Dalton puts to rest the notion that the success of a child is heavily weighted upon the child's birth order. Secondly, the author discloses to the reader that anyone can change his path in life, no matter the circumstances of his/her life as a child. He cites more than enough examples of this. In other words, sometimes a crappy childhood can be the catalyst for success.

I can see that having 5 daughters, in 6 years, would have put unbelievable pressure on my parents, especially my mom. What I remember from my childhood (and this varies only a little from sister to sister) is that she was tired, bitter, cranky and cold. Since I am a mother of only one (by choice) I can certainly understand why she was so tired and cranky. The simple logistics of caring for that many children equates to more daily work than any one person could bear. I could barely handle one toddler - she had 5 at one time. Blecch.

My mom's life for years was cooking, cleaning, and meeting the needs of 5 mewling children. We all looked over the edge of her well, expecting it to be full, dammit, so that we could scoop our cup and fill up. The fantasy we sisters shared, (but were never aware of in each other) is that we would each get what we needed - by mere want of it. This is the egocentricity inherent in most children. No one else's needs were important to us, except our own.

The fantasy now, is that we still may get what we most desperately need and want from our parents - mostly approval (love was conditional in our house - my parents will vehemently deny this today - and perhaps today this is not true - but it was then) without having to perform for them. In other words, unconditional love.

Yes, the real issues lie within each of us - my parents' job was done long ago - there is nothing to be gained from blathering on to them of their real or perceived transgressions as parents when we were small children. This hurts their feelings beyond words, and only creates discord in the family.

Time to grow up, and move on.







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