Family bonds: the hardest thing

July 29, 2012

You’d think family would be the one sure thing in life, the gimme? 
Points you got from just being born? 
So much thick, meaty stuff bound you to these people, 
so many interlocking spirals of history, genetics, commons cause, and struggle 
that it should be the most basic of all drives, that you would strive to protect 
and love one another, 
yet this bond that should be the big no-brainer 
was in fact the hardest thing.*

I’ve spent some time recently with people who understand family bonds and practice those skills in a way that my family of origin does not. Added to that was a long, candid conversation with a 40-year old woman, a mother herself, who also feels that hunger for bonds that she never had.

When you know families who are close, it’s hard to believe that it isn’t the norm. Which it isn’t.

“We were all sold a bill of goods by the happy TV families we saw growing up,” the younger woman told me. I understand completely.

Our expectations were high, and for most of us, reality just didn’t match it.

Watching a sister comfort a brother the other day, my husband whispered to me, “Now that’s what a brother-sister relationship should be.”  I got a little teary, because he’s right. If no one else in the world is for you, you should be able to count on this.

But it’s not a given. Just like “happily ever after” isn’t a given. It takes work. Attention. Nurturing. Acceptance. Forgiveness.

It must be valued and it needs to be a priority.

And when it works well? It’s a thing of beauty to behold.

*From my reading group’s book for this month, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a thought-provoking literary novel that skewers the way the Iraqi war was sold to the public, but has a lot else to say, too.

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