Is it just me … or does your family also have a complex system of unwritten rules that everyone obeys, even if no-one says them aloud? Rules about who you are and where you fit and what is and isn’t acceptable and how things are or aren’t done.
In our house for example, we work as a team. Nothing, but nothing happens, without a family summit. Lost your socks? Let’s huddle. Got a rash? Let ME Take a look. Jar to open? I CAN DO IT!
Here’s another: no-one ever addresses issues directly. If there’s a problem, we go around it. Everyone gives each other meaningful looks – but nothing is said – especially to the parties concerned. Instead, we hold secret emergency summits, to determine the best course of action. The results are then communicated via osmosis and coded third-person speech. Or we speak on each other’s behalf. So, instead of admitting I don’t want to sit up watching another Steven Seagal film, I’ll say that Glen is tired. Instead of my aunt telling me the sweater I bought her is too big, she’ll talk to Dad, who’ll talk to Mum, who’ll talk to my sister, who’ll double-check with my brother, who’ll then ask if I’ve got the receipt. It’s a glorious compromise that ends with everyone sequestered in their room, building solitary bed forts and listening to Classic FM.
Of course, it’s heightened because it’s Christmas. But why don’t we just say what we mean and have done with it? Why all the craziness and the games?
I’m guessing it’s because we love each other. But it’s not a neat, boxed-up love like you see on TV. It’s a love that’s big and messy and uncontrollable and scary and complicated. It’s happy and sad and angry and guilty and too much and not enough and you’re not sure what it is let alone how to express it. And the more you feel it, the harder it is to say – especially with the people who know you best. Like having to ask someone’s name again, when you’ve been saying hello to them for years.