Real Family Life, and its Possibilities

Before Christmas is too far from our memories I wanted to share a Christmas letter with a difference, written by a friend’s daughter-in-law, Lena Dickson, who is now living in Sweden with her family.

So much of the time we share the joy and the fun of family life and hide the grittier side, unsure how it will be received, and perhaps scared we will be judged as parents, rather than supported. Reading this as a parent, I feel permission to be human, to make mistakes and to learn and grow as my children do.
“In the bleak midwinter”

Struggling wintermorning sun. The chill without seems a fitting background to the human drama within. Stressed parents have failed to hear the feelings behind a child’s unreasonable demands and turned it into a topic for heated arguments. Another child has caught the vibes, showered me with abusive language and now sits fully dressed, refusing to go to school. I give up all adult pretensions, blurt out that I can’t be bothered and shut myself in my room upstairs, air thick with hurt and pride, clock ticking.

A long while later the door opens and child says “You should ring school.” He opens the window, climbs up and balances on the ledge. “I’ll jump.” “Why?” “Cause I hate you.” “Why do you hate me?” “Cause you don’t bother about me.” “If you jump you can’t hate me anymore. Sit on the bed instead and hate me.” Inner battle rages. Why should I make the first move? Because deep down I want us to be close and he has shown he wants it too but can’t without losing face. We’re both frozen in our positions but I’m the adult. “It’s been an awful morning, please darling, can we start again?” He has seen my littleness and sadness and there’s a trace of hopefulness when he asks: “How?”

I’ve rung school with feeble excuses. Mugs of hot chocolate and ginger biscuits, candles lit on the kitchen table, a friendly chat marks the new beginning. Soon this event will be forgotten, just another building block of our lives. ‘Just’? Maybe not.

Lena’s refreshing honesty and self-awareness give me hope as a parent that I can recover again and again, and remind me that this is an essential and positive thing for children to experience. It is how they learn about sustaining an intimate relationship. Her words free me up to embrace whatever comes – the good, the bad and the ugly – and to keep discovering the hot chocolate in family life.

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