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Families are a mixed bag.

Updated on July 29, 2015

Do you ever wonder where that person came from in this family? I would venture to saw most of us have.

All of us have family and there is frequently one member who shall we say ‘stands out’. You know the one, I mean, the family member we all have and wish at times to put in a closet. The one, who talks too much, has bad manners and/or eats and drinks too much. Every family has one and we are so thankful that others understand.

What do we do when there is a significant family event that we must invite this person? We have given up years a go trying to ask for some peace within the group. We have tried asking the person to tone down their behavior and we have even gone so far as to take them outside when things got bad and ask for them to please act with some manner of adult decorum. It did not help.

Every family experience is different and every family member sees the situation differently. There are many ways of handling this situation. And the first thing we need to do is try to take a look at the whole situation in an objective way. Why is this person so objectionable? It is surprising how many times alcohol is at the root of the problem. If this should be the problem, we need to take a deep breath and honestly answer the question ‘can we have a celebration without alcohol being a part of the celebration?’ If this answer is ‘No’, there may be more than one problem at work here.

If the only way the family can enjoy a celebration is with alcohol, we need to answer another question. Why? If you are unsure about abstaining, try it. Invite everyone over for a dinner. As folks arrive offer a nonalcoholic punch or soda. Make light of the lack of alcohol and make note of how this is accepted by all in the group. There are probably more family members than just one family member who is happy about the nonalcoholic punch. It takes real spunk to make this step; it will become easier as time goes by.

Alcohol seems to loosen the tongue of people. Things that would never be said are right out there in your face. The frequently accessorily dialog will many times leave a brick wall between family members. And the sad part of this is without the alcohol everyone would more likely remain on a friendship level. Isn’t it true that none of us agree on how to raise children or many times how children should act in public. So when someone tells us how to raise our children and this person is staggering around the room, well we just know they do not know better and we take our kids home before something is said to them. Another big problem with alcohol at the gathering is when one family member believes they are the best person in the room. I am sure that I need not go any further with this, as we all know where this is leading.

In some families alcohol is not the problem but mental health is. Mental health is frequently not treated and when treated it is kept behind closed doors. Our country needs to fund mental health treatment like we have never before. This is an epidemic in our country. The fallout from mental health issues is fear. No one is sure how or when to intervene. And the person suffering from the issues demonstrated is completely at a loss. They do not see the awkwardness of their reaction to stimuli. And of those left in the group when an episode occurs it is confounding and uncomfortable. Without a road map for mental health treatment we are all lost in a tsunami of events. Mental health treatment is hidden and not a topic for discussion in America’s everyday world. And so we simply stumble along and someone is killed and then the topic comes up. We need to have this conversation the same way we discuss cancer and the treatments there of.

When we look at our family dynamics and the uncomfortable feelings of having a get together, then take out alcohol and mental health, truly there is little else to create ill feelings in the group. Now this isn’t to say there are the only two things necessary to fix in order to have a wonderful time together with family and friends. However, it is the largest part of the problem and almost always the problem that will come up over and over again. For those of us who have family that make life very difficult, if we take out both of these problems we can actually have a decent time together for a few hours.

There will always be that odd person who simply does not fit in, however we can all get along. Perhaps we will not be as happy as we were before sister Sue divorced Sam and now brings Brian to the table. We may have a difficult time getting through the first gathering after Daddy’s passing, or any one of many other situations, the point is these are not family destroying venues, rather they are one time events and then we can all move along. Once we know Sue’s Brian, he may not be so bad and is very possibly feeling just as uncomfortable as we are. We all loss family members to death and these are difficult times. It is important to keep in mind everyone of us is at a different stage in our grieving and need to respect that.

We all have people we just do not understand and would rather not be around. However, we can usually hold on for a family celebration or event. And being with family is an especially good time, so lets try to find a way to keep Uncle Joe or Aunt Louise in the mix.


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    • MGWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Marsha Caldwell 

      3 years ago from Western Washington State

      Denise I am so sorry to hear of your father's health problems. However, hopefully this gathering will help everyone put closure to their differences. Your family is making remarkable progress having so many attend the recent celebration of your Mom's Birthday. It seems it is always easier to just close the lid when feelings are hurt, than to find away to move on in our life. Especially for the person who is ill it is so much better to bring closure to the table. This does not mean to necessarily forgive but to see a bigger picture. I am so happy for your family and especially you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      We had our first full family gathering this year since my parents separated after their 50th wedding anniversary. My mother turned 80, and my sister planned a celebration for the family. Three years ago, when Dad turned 80, not everyone came. Some were still holding grudges, and did not advocate for the gathering, however, when they saw that all were welcomed, things changed. The gathering this year was attended by the majority of the family. Our parents have been amiable, in spite of living in separate quarters, and all seem to have a good time. Thankfully, no alcohol was served, and although we all have differing religious affiliations at this point in our lives, we can have a good time without it. Now, my father has ill health, and we don't know when we will all be together again.

    • MGWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Marsha Caldwell 

      3 years ago from Western Washington State

      Let's keep family time interesting and functional. This is where we should be learning about our close and extended family, not how to hide the alcohol.


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