Admit it: more than once, you’ve been forced to plaster on a smile when a family member announced they’d be dropping by. You had planned catch up on work or relax with a new book, and you just know your sibling/uncle/parent will inevitably get on your last nerve. Or perhaps you’re groaning at the thought of attending yet another family get-together with extended relatives from out of town. It’s okay – we’ve all been there.
But wait a minute. Is it okay? Whether immediate or extended, your family is just that – your family. They share your blood, they have the same parents or grandparents or cousins as you, and they likely grew up with you or raised you. They’re the ones who will be there for you no matter what. So why do we ignore them and treat them like second-class citizens?
I think one reason is that, unfortunately, we see that behaviour around us all the time. Think about it – how many movies have you seen where the main character humorously complains about their family? How many times have you heard the expression, “Too bad you can’t choose your family, but thank God you can choose your friends?” I’ll tell you: too many times. (Even hearing it once is one too many times. It’s a cruel expression.) We hear our friends and family criticizing relatives and think it’s normal for us to do the same. Perhaps it is normal in our society, but that doesn’t make it right.
Another reason is that we know they’ll always forgive us. My grandmother, for example, is a sweet little lady who my family and I often describe as “overly helpful.” The problem is that we focus on “overly” instead of “helpful.” When she voices her opinions on our personal choices or insists that her recipe is better than ours, she’s not trying to control us; she’s trying to help us. Even though we sometimes forget this and don’t give her as much attention or respect as she deserves, she doesn’t hold that against us. She knows we understand that she wants the best for us, and therefore she remains supportive, loving, and mild-mannered. She’s also the only grandparent I’ve ever known, and if you’re in a similar situation (i.e. if you have only one cousin or sibling or aunt), you may understand the need to treat that person with extra love and care because they’re extra special to you. It’s something I try to remind myself of each time I talk with her.
Many of us assume that we have decades of exasperatedly sitting through family get-togethers ahead of us. Sadly, life is often cut short and people are subsequently left with regret. So, if you ever catch yourself thinking about a relative in a negative way, do yourself a favour and reevaluate your reasons for having those thoughts. Are you frustrated about something else and taking it out on that person? Are you secretly jealous of them for being further along than you in life or work? Do you have unresolved feelings towards them for something that happened in the past? Maybe you’re subconsciously looking past their great qualities and only seeing the not-so-great ones. Whatever the case, you’ll feel so much better if you change your negative attitude towards them. Chances are, so will they!