In a follow up to my blog on friends, I feel there are some things to say about family. Actually if we pause for breath we all know there are a lot of things to say about family, but I’m trying not to be specific. So here is my generic take on the subject.

The old adage goes, ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’. And this of course is completely correct, if not a little obvious. But what this really means is that amongst your family not everyone will be your friend.

When we are young, the first people we really know and bond with are often our cousins. A lot of this has to do with your parents sibling support, and in many cases the fact that generations are raised loosely together as children are often born around the same time. When this is the case you get to know these cousins far better than anyone, for it is they that you are left to explore the world with, there is a deemed safeness of you being with your cousins and of course as children you quite often abuse that and just get up to all sort of trouble together. Quite often these cousins come with you through life as friends, close friends. But again often through one thing or another you drift apart as your lives change and evolve.

But then there are the cousins who you come together with at a later stage in life. Where the shared history of the family forms the bond that brings you together and often a shared genetic similarity seems to bind you like long lost siblings. These cousins, the ones you come together with as adults can often form the best friendship bonds you will ever have. You have the shared history, you have the genetic link, but mostly because you have decided you like each other as adults, and this is the ultimate validation of friendship.

Grandparents are the true kings and queens of family. You will always look up to your grandparents, and despite whatever goes on in your lives it is your grandparents who will always stick by you. Whereas the parent child relationship can be soured by one thing on another along the way, grandparents are just separated enough from your daily lives to be protected and will always see the little babies that they bathed and fed so many times. They assume the roles of fairy godmother and great sage. They will calm you as a child, they will understand your needs as a teenager and they will have the advice you often require as an adult. There is a bond here that cannot be broken and will hold you together for life. Unfortunately the generation gap is such that grandparents move on from us, and we are left with a feeling of sorrow that is always backed with the happiness of a person both loved and respected. Who doesn’t remember their dear departed Nan with a smile and a tear at the same time?

So now I move on to parents, for this is the tough one. Parents are the gods of our lives when we are children. We look to them for all our needs, the physical, the moral and the spiritual. They feed us and clothe us and they have all the answers to the million questions we have in life. They are for a short period of time they are the only perfect beings we will ever know, because they are infallible, they are unbreakable, they will always have the solution to every situation and we know without doubt they will always protect us. Of course we know that this is not true.

Our parents are human beings like anyone else. The trust that we have in them, the assurance that they are always right, well this is unfounded as they are like everyone else, working things out as they go along. They are learning the art of parenthood by trial and error. When the first inklings of doubt of their superhero status begin to filter in to the teenage mind, it can feel as if you have truly been let down. The bubble of perfection becomes somewhat tenuous in its existence and the reality of their fallibility can come as quite a shock. Of course there are good parents and bad parents; there is a whole plethora of abilities and awareness. Hopefully most of us get through to our adult life without too many parental problems, but it happens, and for many reasons the young person will face the world with problems already amassed, often ill-equipped for the world they face. The problem is that most will not even realise and it may not be until they tackle parenthood themselves that these issues arise.

Then there are the acceptance issues such as sexual orientation and other life choices where parents can now let you down. Unnecessary judgements of lifestyle are a common cause of the falling out between parents and their children. In most circumstances these issues can be overcome and often forgotten very quickly, yet I have seen so many situations where these issues cause rifts within families that last for decades. The ultimate bond between a parent and a child should be sacrosanct, but it is the responsibility of both parties to respect this bond. This love must be unconditional, for without this that most special of all relationships can be ruined forever. This is perhaps the saddest situation I can imagine between to living people, but it is all too common.

It is not just the parent-child bond that can end so broken, this happens at many levels within families. There are many causes, negative events, arguments, fights even, but the one that is the most destructive as far as I am concerned is the use of emotional blackmail. This is where family members use blood ties to try and coerce you into acting in a certain way, or participating in certain events. Sometimes this is done in innocence, but often there is a specific agenda involved, and more than one family member takes part. These are the actions that cause serious rifts and they result in lack of trust resentment. If ‘friends’ treat you in this way you can just walk away. With families this just isn’t possible as no matter how far an individual goes, the pain and hurt inside will always be there.

For this is what it is to be family. You can provide the most exquisite love and support, but you can also cause limitless pain and suffering.

Lastly I want to talk about siblings. Your brothers and sisters are your comrades in war. When you are growing up you go through the good times with them, and of course you got through the bad. You can have the closest of relationships and you can beat the crap out of each other. More normally you do both at the same time, this is what siblings do. You spend way too much time together to be happy all the time, but at the end of the day there is no one else as you go through life who will know your childhood as they do. Whatever happens, whatever fights you may have along the way, your childhood has prepared you for. Always go back to your siblings for they are made of the same things as you, they are just mixed a different way.

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