The Language of Families

Mr. Spit and I went to the 9:00 service at church yesterday, to avoid the 7(!) shiny, brand new babies that are in our church. We are struggling with children right now, and plan on banning Mother's day and Father's day from our sight.

In a triumph of God's sense of humor, a good friend showed up with her 14 month old wee one, who just loves Mr. Spit. Mr. Spit wrote, elegantly, about this. It's a good post, and it's not what I'm writing about.

Every family has their own language. They have their own rhythm's, their own cadence. And it isn't until we come into contact with others, that we begin to realize what isn't particularly normal about ours.

Perhaps what was most important about having children, to Mr. Spit and I, was the chance to do things better. To communicate better, to be unfailingly honest, to love each other, to stay married. To do better at being married, at being a family. To be emotionally healthy. Above all, to treat each other with respect, with care, to cherish our love.

And let me be clear - there are days when we fail. Days when we are less than kind to each other, and days when we are wrapped up in our own worlds, and in our own grief. We are nowhere near the perfect married couple. But we try: to treat each other with respect, to speak well of each other, to meet each other's needs. Our intents are true.

Having children for Mr. Spit and I was about having hope for the future, about passing on not just our genetic material, but about redeeming our own brokenness, about redeeming the brokenness of our families. We could consciously choose to do better. To tell our children, every day, that they were loved. To teach them to treat each other kindly, with respect. To create a family legacy that was so powerful that our children would never know that Mr. Spit and I came from broken homes, homes that were full of unhealthy behaviour.

But, hope for the future doesn't change what is. It doesn't change coming from homes that are not healthy, and it doesn't change the behaviour of our families. I have realized that I can't change my family. I can do better, I can set limits, I can allow myself to be me, but I can't change their behaviour. I can change the way they act, but I can't change how they treat me. I can stand up for my rights, to be treated with kindness, respect, dignity, but I can't make them treat me this way.

I have found women who could teach me. Strong women who taught me to fight for right, to stand up for myself, to make myself pliable enough to have a relationship. Who taught me what emotionally healthy means. Who cheer on my successes, and who sit with me in my failures. Who teach me to pick myself up, to dust myself off, and to try again. And they have tried to teach me when to stop fighting. When to say enough.

I'm a try-er. When something isn't working, I try harder, I work harder, I investigate more options, I assume it's my fault. But, sometimes, you have to call uncle. Sometimes you accept, however tragic life is, that things will never get better with a person, and you can't live with the way they treat you, and as sad and awful as it is, you can live without them.

It's hard at first, I imagine. I imagine the temptation to pick up the phone is enormous. You want to call them, not because they are supportive, or they are kind, or helpful, but because they are predictable, you know how they work, and if I am terribly honest, you know what buttons to push. I imagine the conversation of "this just isn't working, and it's not healthy" is going to be tough.

But I've learned a lot about tough things. And stuff that is hard is so often good for you. And so, I'm writing about when you break up with your family. Because I hung up on someone Saturday night. And with the click of a phone call, the relationship ended.

I could tell you why, but really, it's private, and I could tell you what she said, but really, there's no point. Yes, it was awful. She was deliberately cruel. She wanted to hurt me. She knew what buttons to push. She would know, she gave me life.

And now, I'm walking out of hers. And today, I'm sad. I am feeling a bit adrift, without anyone in my family to anchor me. I'm feeling a bit lost today, like the true, good and healthy language of a family will ever escape me.