Friday, April 09, 2010

By Land and By Sea

Even if it is 40 degrees in Chicago in April,
sometimes a boy's gotta' fish

Last week was Passover, so we took a little time off work, hosted a few guests. Something of a family reunion. Although not everyone could make it, attendance was pretty good.

We're at Lincoln Park, here, FD's showing the giraffes our kite. They were impressed.

Once or twice, if you're a regular reader, you've found me depressed after a holiday break like this. The kids come, they go, they take my grandchildren with them. They threaten to leave one or two behind, but the little people somehow find their way to their car seats at the end of the holiday. Although I miss them already, it's okay. It always was.

We played a lot of games, some indoors. This year's indoor Bozo's Grand Prize Game was even more of a hit than last year. I didn't tell the kids that Bozo the Clown has passed on to that big circus in the sky.

There's this idea that children really prefer a good cardboard box to the toy inside, and it has been shown, without a doubt, to be statistically significant. After they all left I spent a bit of time smashing boxes for recycling, and throwing things away. I spent about eight hours getting my house together, and will need another couple of weeks to find things, return them to their proper owners. (Empath Daught, if you're reading this, I found some make-up with the chometz (rhymes with dumb-its, means not for Passover use), and someone's sleeveless tee-shirt is still hanging in the bathroom upstairs.)

What else, what else. The best thing about a family reunion is that the generations divide. Sure, it's great for the grandparents to bond with everyone, but leaving the younger people to talk until 3 a.m., just talk, catch up on their lives, and me and FD not hearing a word of it, is kind of wonderful, if you ask me.

This is the essence, really, of a family therapy, that siblings should have their own relationship with one another, not something based upon their relationship to their parents, although that's obviously okay, too. The closeness is something to shoot for, and the way to shoot for it is to get the parents out of the room.

Same thing, really, with marriage. You have to get your parents out of that relationship, too, although it's surely a good thing that they're there, if they are there, when you need them. Nothing like having a parent around when you need one. Same, too, with kids. I called one of mine yesterday. Conversation went like this:

Uh, honey, are you around tomorrow at noon?
Son: I think so!
Great, the guy is coming to fix the dryer and I'm with patients until 1:00.
Son: No problem. Will there be food?

What else, what else.

You can establish a boundary around your practice, with enough practice. My practice is full and yet I was gone for 10 days and had maybe 2 phone calls while I was off, from new patients. I'm not sure how you do this, but it is worth working at. Using your team, using the patient's resources, this is all in there somewhere, as is encouraging independence. I guess we should talk about it more sometime.

What else, what else. I read a good book by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn. It's a post-war book about a nice kid from Ireland who comes to America, leaves her family behind knowing that at most she will see them once a year, traveling by boat. She's here in America for a better life. It's a wonderful novel, rich in character insight. The whole idea of separating from family for a whole year is mind-boggling, isn't it? And yet people used to do it all the time, and many still do.

And I complain about a few months apart from mine.



TechnoBabe said...

I don't have much in my childhood to compare to this post and I am happy to say my three children have a relationship on their own. They have their ups and downs but they are the first to be there for each other when something happens. I know what you mean about the comfort of a parent when the grown children stay up and catch up with their lives and share with each other what they don't talk about with the parents.

The Blue Morpho said...

It is always interesting to me to see this kind of inter-generational strength. It is wonderful for those who have it, but there are ways to create family when you don't have one ready made. Having three of four grandparents as alcoholics, and now estranged from my own parents, I do not have a ready-built generational stack. But we can build families - I am more interested in some of my cousins, and seek contact with them even when it is difficult. In-laws have taken center stage. And I find myself starting to work on tighter friendships. I wish I had a larger, stronger family, but I am extra-thankful for an amazing sister and husband. I suppose my point is that we can find family, make family, and that is just more evidence for how powerful family is in our lives.
Adventures in Anxiety Land

Cheryl said...

"You can establish a boundary around your practice, with enough practice. My practice is full and yet I was gone for 10 days and had maybe 2 phone calls while I was off, from new patients. I'm not sure how you do this, but it is worth working at. Using your team, using the patient's resources, this is all in there somewhere, as is encouraging independence. I guess we should talk about it more sometime."

PRETTY PLEEEASE could you? Thanks. Used to call/email my therapist several times a day EVERYDAY for quite an extended period of time. She wouldn't answer me, but that didn't stop me. We just came to an understanding. When it stopped we knew I was in a crisis.

But then I wasn't in a crisis anymore, and I still don't. Just stopped. Well at least not nearly as much. I was disgusted with the fact that what I was doing wasn't working and took it upon myself to seek out a support system as big as a small army. I would recommend DBSA groups to anyone...

As far as boxes go, there the BEST. Mom used to save them for the babysitter. Add a blanket or 2 and you can make a super AWESOME fort. Or if the box is big enough, a dog house (my brother used to be a dog quite often)

Jack said...

Expectations used to be different. Now it is almost unimaginable to be that far away and for so long. But once...

Lily said...

It is amazing to me the dynamics of families. My fathers side of the family is so close, and so strikingly similar to yours. I absolutely love when we get together. We are all so proud of who we are individually, who we are as a family and respect the ones who raised us, and the ones who raised our raisers. I can't describe it.. but it's special.

My mom's family is so different. They have what I can only describe as a surface relationship. They have shame and secrets and disapproval. They all love each other, but I've seen how gossip in my family spreads like wild fire. There is fake acceptance. I love my family, but I don't feel the sense of family with them the same as I do with my other part.

So hard to explain, yet you have done such a good job here. I can just feel that same sense of family pride that you describe when speaking of the relationships you have with your kids/grandkids!

Smitty said...

Families... I come from a nuclear family that is across the continent from me... over three thousand miles away.

My brother settled not far from my parents, and they have never seen his house, as it is a ferry ride away and my mom is afraid to take their car on the ferry.

We think my mother has a significant personality disorder. But one thing that was always important to her is that my brother and I love each other and spend time together that she has absolutely no part of.

I love her for that. I do wish she would allow her shy, intelligent, listening husband (my dad) have time with each of us, alone. But she hovers on the phone and can't seem to allow a father-daughter relationship flower.

This makes me sad. I have always wanted to know my dad. I know my mom only TOO well.

My mom used to tell me that she knew me better than I knew myself. Now, as a mother of a ten-year-old-son, I know it is the child that really knows the parent, even when the parent has good boundaries, as I try to have.

They know our buttons better than we do! And sometimes this just makes me laugh.

I may never have the extended family you speak of in this post.. the grandchildren... but I really like hearing that others do. I like hearing stories about worlds I cannot possess. Thank you for sharing this!

Isle Dance said...

Sweet blessed family.

When getting off the boat (from same place, years apart), my grandparents knew that they'd never see their family/country again. I cannot imagine.

But their amazing.

lynette said...

i am so happy for you that you had a passover of connection and family, and that your work let you be for a while.

i have no idea what it is like to be a daughter/sister/cousin in such a family as you describe. i have no first cousins. i grew up with my parents a continent away from my grandparents. now my mother lives alone in FL, my sister a few hours away too, and no one is near by.

my in-laws (thank goodness) also live a couple hundred miles away (even my husband is not sad).

i feel saddest for my kids who don't have what you describe -- they do once a year when my in-laws have a big gathering at their tiny summer cottage for a week. the kids catch up with cousins. my husband catches up with his brothers and his parents and his cousins. i stay blissfully home and get me time and don't have to fight to use one bathroom among 18 people.

i wonder how much stronger i would be if i had a strong family web....

Anna said...

Oh, so much to say about this!

I can always spot the long-distance grandmas at the grocery store. They linger a little longer, coo a little more, you know? Missing their own. We've had long distance grandmas, still do, and so I understand.

I needed distance from my family of origin for a while. Really, about ten years. That's not without communication at all, but very limited, protected communication. I grew some, had a little therapy, said my peace, and now things are good. Not great, but good.

Leora said...

"idea of separating from family for a whole year is mind-boggling, isn't it?"
I think of my grandmother who left her 8 siblings and mother behind in Russia and never, ever saw them again. I think America was fascinating but lonely, even though she had my paternal grandfather's family her and my mother with her.

My neighbor just sat shiva for her mother next door; her mother died in Israel, and the rest of her 8 siblings sat shiva there. She couldn't make it back; they listened to the funeral on the phone. Difficult times!

I count my blessings that my children are right here with me and my father is only two blocks away.

Amanda said...

puts a lot into perspective! i'm young (22) but love being with my grandparents. i hate it when we only see certain family members 1x a year when really, we live pretty close and any excuse seems lame. great writing. makes you remember what matters the most. :)

Wonderingsoul said...

Really enjoyed reading about your own experiences with your family, T.D.
Read this a few days ago and couldn't really comment at the time.
~One of the things that struck me the most was the love and the understanding and the warmth in your comment about leaving the siblings to catch up. Giving them that space...
Not really sure why, but there is something mindblowingly moving about that thought... or maybe, more than the thought itself, the fact that you actually HAD that thought... the fact you instinctively know / understand the importance of that space - and the fact that they would use it.

When I just typed the line explaining that I couldn'tr comment on this post when I first read it, I wondered if I should try to explain why... and on reflection, I couldn't think of a reason.
Now having typed a response, I think I might understand why it might be a tiny bit painful.

Families huh?
More to them than anyone ever thinks


Syd said...

Nice. I think that my family is so small now that there isn't much to miss. Just a few cousins. I often have thought that a large extended family would be nice, but then I realize that it may not be so rosy after all.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you posting again...lost my dad March 12th, now I am officially an "orfink." That's a word coined by my husband who has also lost both his parents now. Finally got out to the cemetery and saw mom's grave -- it was too muddy to actually walk up the hill to stand over top it but I think she knew we were there and why...I was a basket case for about 2 months after mother died, I grieve my father but not in the same way...maybe the first one to go garners more grief? paving the way for the other one? Hope this isn't too morbid. Love.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

"The closeness is something to shoot for, and the way to shoot for it is to get the parents out of the room."

That's a great summary of a lesson it's taken me years to learn, for contexts far from family relationships. Thank you.

Brian said...


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Cat said...

My boys have what I was unable to get from my siblings, that closeness. I did not play them off one another as my mother did myself and my siblings, I made sure it was understood that they were important to one another. I think not having that relationship made me see how important it was.

therapydoc said...

I really appreciate all of your comments, feel the love and want to tell you that I love all of you back. Even Dissertation Topics, who is clearly not a reader, but a spammer, so the life of the last comment will be short, is about to go into the trash.

And I'm especially touched by the "orfink" idea, of course. And really like the idea that we do create an extended family, assuming we take that initiative.

therapydoc said...

Uh, oh. Now it makes CAT look like a spammer. I took off the spam, it wasn't CAT!

Probably we should talk about sibling relationships more, too. As C. mentions, parents have tremendous power and opportunity when it comes to shaping these.

Anna said...

Yes, TD, that would be excellent!

My sister and I are eight years apart, and any relationship we might have had was squashed by my parents. After she left home for college, we were able to build a relationship together, and it's really wonderful to have someone else in this world who knows what you mean by "Mom... again."

Now, I have four children under 8 and the dynamic is SO different! None of them will remember life before having someone to share it with.

Free Coaching Reports said...
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