“There needs to be a special kind of feeling that allows a family to carry on…it’s not something that thrives off others, because it’s something that gives” – this is a snippet taken from a really simple but beautiful Japanese book (Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto) I read recently and I cannot seem to shake it.
For me that snippet provoked thoughts of community, of togetherness, of honesty, of selflessness, of compromise, of love…. It really made me stop and think, think not only about myself in the context of my family (as in husband and three children) but also my parents, siblings and wider network.
So what is that feeling that makes a family carry on? How can it be created, who creates it? Does it mean that one cannot be an individual and selfish ?
We all start out in a family unit whether it be a happy home, a broken home, raised by single parents, arguing parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, grandparents…goodness knows…where there is love it works no matter what the framework! Our foundations are set and certain values ingrained. We grow, we are selfish, we take and learn and slowly, ever so slowly, start building our own blocks of life.
We live on our own, travel, work, laze around, eventually settling down. This is when maybe, just maybe, we start looking back at our parents and appreciating some of the things they did for us! We also start to see them as human beings with flaws rather than perfect individuals!
We go from a “me” attitude to an “us” attitude…We marry or co-live and start a family….All the books show the loving couple, hand on bump, ready for that beautiful adventure that is a child. And there you have it, your own family, with no real guidelines other than what you have seen and felt growing up (which for some is probably terrible). You might end up the “home maker” – staying home with the children and ensuring all the wheels are oiled. You might have the career, as well as the children, and juggle it all. Life and family life might not always go hand in hand, and it might be very different from what you thought it would be – or maybe you didn’t really think about it?
So if you are having a rough day with your family – maybe you feel disappointed or angry or lonely, maybe you lack support or love, maybe you have been let down – try to think about this. You are important. You have the ability to set the tone for the people around you. If you feel proud of what you are doing, it will shine through. If you appreciate and realise that you are part of creating an environment in which your family will flourish, that knowledge will create warmth. If you try to focus on all the little things you might do, set the table, wash the clothes, kiss wounds better, close top buttons on tight shirts, tumble, play sports in the garden, read stories, make great art projects for school come to life, support the family by working, cook food, bake, drive them to activities, play, build Lego, draw, break up arguments, making sure there is a lovely lunch box ready for school,….(list goes on and on!) then you will find that YOU create that special feeling that keeps the family together, the glue that holds everything in place. You set the example and by doing so you will inspire your family to give back and come together.
That is no small thing. It is amazing if you think about it. Be proud. For a while, there are not many thank-yous, not much appreciation and it can feel like you are not doing anything important…but you are probably doing the most important piece of work there is by nurturing your family.
It is not always easy to be in a family unit. There are many expectations and not many lessons taught on how to create one – a healthy strong and happy one. I hope I have somehow managed to get to those that have bad days and hope that maybe an appreciation of what they do and who they are will make them feel better. Don’t forget that all little drops flow and come together to make an ocean – so keep that giving feeling in mind and be proud of your family! It might not always be perfect, hey it might never be perfect, but maybe it is not supposed to be. As long as it is an environment where everyone is allowed to flourish, you will work it out as you go.