In today’s fast-paced, hectic often unpredictable world, I am often comforted with the relationship I have with my family. I feel like I know them inside and out. My son is fascinated by molecules and megabytes. My sister’s middle name is Suzanne. My dad’s is left-handed. Or is he? My mom’s favorite hobby is – hmmm, I guess I don’t know that either. My nine-year-old still wants to be a singer, I think. My daughter’s least favorite food is lasagna. At least it was last week, when she threw a fit over what I made for dinner.
Maybe I don’t know my family as well as I thought. What about you? How well do you know your family? Family’s share the same genes, and, if you have tween-to-teens, sometimes jeans too. We hug, and we fight. We squabble, and we make-up. We cry, and we celebrate. But do we talk? Or rather do we ask? As hard as it is to admit, no, we don’t ask as much as we should.
I don’t know who my mom’s first boyfriend was, or where my dad held his first job. I’ve never asked my sister about learning to drive a car or my children’s dad about his favorite subject in school. I’m assuming my son still loves the color blue and bubblegum ice cream, but I don’t know with absolute certainty. And, quite frankly, not knowing these things is wrong.
It’s not that I am unfamiliar with these individuals – they are my family, for goodness sake. I’m often dumbfounded to think that with the amount of time I spend with them that I often know so little. Truth be told, most people know more about Hollywood celebrities than they do about their family.
Why is that? Well, if you are like me, year after year, the time with your family seems effortless. You see them daily, and feel very familiar with who they are, right? Wrong. That feeling of familiarity is often mistaken for authentic connections and knowledge. More often than not, we may spend our time avoiding discussions of consequence.
We discuss the budding bed of petunias with Aunt Mary and the new set of cookware with Grandma. We may debate about what color to paint the living room or about what the best television show is this season. The list goes on and on, but non the topics are necessarily the memories we will want to pass from generation to generation. The topics describe our day-to-day but they don’t necessarily lay the foundations families are built upon.
So, how do you get to know your family? How do you gain that intimacy? Basically, how do you “meet” your family? It all starts with a question – actually a lot of questions, meaningful questions about life, love, sadness and more. Have your Grandmother share about her first love. Query your son about his favorite childhood memorable. Ask your daughter to share her dream house with you.
And, after you ask the questions, listen. Just listen. Don’t judge or criticize. Listen to the words as they paint a picture of feeling, of sadness, of love. (You may also want to document these moments with audio recordings or video tapes to preserve the memories for future generations.) Don’t wait until you have everyone together. Start connecting today through emails, Skype, phone calls, letters – even text messaging.
Get to know the people who helped raise, guide and influence you – those who have helped defined you, and let them know, it’s a pleasure not only to meet you, but to know you.
Want more tips on parenting tweens and teens? Visit Julie Smith online at www.JulieSmith.com!