There were a lot of tensions in the family of my childhood. Looking back I wonder if anything could have been called “normal”.
I don’t know if “normal” is something to thrive for, but it would have been easier to put six “normal” people in a room than to put my family in there.
There were cultural clashes problems, like Christmas: my mother’s parents saved the whole year to buy lots of gifts, preferably expensive ones; my father’s parents didn’t care much for Christmas gifts. I got maybe twenty or even thirty gifts from my mother’s parents, and one from my father’s. Consider the mood in that room. It didn’t take many years before me and my parents drove between the grand parents’ homes on Christmas and we then spent the rest of the day at our own home, alone; something doable because we had them all in the same town.
Then there were the problem of personal chemistry and lack of social skills. You could simply not put my parents and their respective parents in one room. Actually it was enough to put my parents with either of their parents at the same place.
Dad didn’t go well with his parents; mother didn’t go well with hers. Dad despised my mother’s parents; dad’s mother didn’t like my mother. Mother’s parents didn’t care much for my dad. My mother’s parents didn’t care much for each other either, neither did my dad’s parents; both marriages where total wrecks. My dad’s mother was nuts, the father invisible and my mother’s parents were snobs and had formal dinners even for the closest family.
And on top of that my own parents didn’t go on very well, but at least divorce would have been an option for them if they had wanted to. For my parents’ parents that would have been unthinkable.
Many of the reasons for this mess I learned as a grown-up. I can’t remember how much I asked as a child. Either I think I didn’t dare to ask – tension easily erupts - or I looked upon it as normal.
Then I met my future husband and was sitting with the same constellation of parents and grand parents in his family and maybe they all didn’t have a good time and enjoyed the others company, what do I know, but it worked. They could sit in the same room. And behave.
On the other hand, in his family they had never considered that people may have special need and extra care. You put people in a room and then it is up to each to join in what ever conversation they preferred. It wouldn’t cross anybody’s mind to seek out the quiet, lonely individual and acknowledged their presence.
Something my parents experienced. My husband’s family was far larger than mine, so when we put both families in the same room, his relatives had a good time all by themselves talking about relatives and situations only known by them. One in my family took this very personal.
And so the story repeats itself.
My children will not likely see their parents’ parents in the same room.