We are taught that in our families we have the one place where we can find love and protection, not to mention acceptance, so when we are attacked on our home turf the sting of the insult seems more painful and longer lasting.
Our families know things about us that we wish never happened; they’ve seen your snaggle-toothed 4th grade picture and they are all too aware that you slept with your parents well past your 10th birthday. They have ammo that should be outlawed by NATO.
That is why family functions can become super charged with tension; your skin begins to crawl at the mere mention of introducing that new main squeeze to your ever expanding brood and let’s not even discuss the dreaded first holiday season with the cousin who witnessed you wetting your pants during the annual family bottle rocket war.
We tend to tread lightly when entering into a family occasion but after a few minutes we relax, we remember all the stories of our childhood and our hearts and faces begin to glow with the feeling of love and laughter. Then it happens, someone goes too far. The story of you forging your Mom’s name in crayon leads to the regaling of the time you sang so loudly in the restaurant bathroom that all the patrons clapped for you when you returned to the table. You are ashamed, you are hurt, you are pissed; how could they say that?? How could they bring up the time you were made fun of, and in front of your love?
It is in that very moment that we forget that they re-tell these stories out of adoration, we forget that the person who said it would do anything for us. All we remember is the time they ate their weight in grapes and they pooped their pants while on their father’s shoulders; and before we know it each story gets retold with more biting humor and pent up hostility.
At times we leave out of anger and other times we sit with the family, stewing in the awkward silence, and wishing someone had pulled up the emergency break so we could have all avoided the wreckage.
It is true that our cattiness can come out during our less-than-stellar moments, but whether it be with a stranger or with those that we hold dearest, we need to remember to breathe. Next Thanksgiving when the story of you running into the sliding glass door becomes fodder, laugh it off and silently relive the night your cousin rammed his car into his prom date’s living-room in your head. Just taking those few seconds to breathe can make the difference; save a relationship and even help you.