Tag Archives: grandparents

Family Relationships

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.  Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.  ~Paul Pearsall,
Ph. D., author,lecturer and keynote speaker. 1942-2007

If you read yesterday’s post you will know that I had all the family, with the exception of my son-in-law, here in the evening.  Sitting and watching the interaction between the members made me think of relationships in families and how we all fit into the jigsaw that is a family.

Jig saw pieces

© Nese Basaran | Dreamstime.com

Of all the relationships in our lives those with our family are the most difficult to manage with equanimity.  My dictionary defines equanimity as “Calmness of mind and composure” while Roget’s Thesaurus offers “Balance, poise, good temper and coolness”.

So why do we have more problems interacting with family members than with strangers?  Well, firstly family members know us with all our faults and imperfections.  they know our arrogance, our fears and foibles and our reaction to certain stimuli.  Maybe at times, they even use these stimuli to manipulate us.

Does a child win when mother in desperation, gives in to an unreasonable demand?  Of course he does and having learned what pushes the button, tucks the knowledge away for future use.

Our family members have seen us at our best and at our worst.  They are difficult to deceive.  They know us.  They see through our “face for the world”.

We all have rules by which we live and the rules that govern our relationship with our family are a set apart.  What do you expect from your family?  Do you expect the television version of happy families?  Are you old enough to remember the Partridge Family or the Brady Bunch?  Were we expected to believe that this was the norm?  Unfortunately, I think many did.

A family is made up of a number of individuals each having his or her own rules as to how a family should act.  Fathers and mothers make rules for their children.  They model their own behavior on these rules, and expect their children to follow them.  In turn the children develop their own rules, usually based on the model set by the parents.

But what happens when others are introduced into this tight knit family unit – son marries, daughter becomes engaged to be married.  Here are more people with their own rules, values, faults and imperfections (although the faults and imperfections may not be immediately obvious).

Then grandchildren are born.  Their parents set rules and boundaries by which they will raise their children and on which they expect their children to base their own lives.  In today’s world, where many families have both parents working, grandparents are having an increasing influence on grandchildren’s lives.  They then have to juggle their own rules and values with those of the children’s parents.  I suggest this is not always easy.  And as the grandchildren grow and set their own rules and values the mix becomes even more complicated.

So it is clear that family relationships need more attention than we usually give to them.  For most of us it is a given that the family is there.  We may say “If I need them I can call upon them and they are there for me.”  But is this enough?

How about your family relationships?  Is it time you sat down with the family members and discussed how you each see your place in the family structure – grandfather, grandmother, sons and daughters, their spouses and children.  And in today’s world there are often even more levels of this relationship.  If one or other party has been divorced, or a spouse or partner has died and a new person has been introduced into the family, the structure will change.  What of his or her values, rules and own family as you try to integrate them into your  family?

Is it time to have conversations with individual members of the family?  Perhaps there is a sibling or son or daughter with whom your relationship is not as it should be.  How can you change this?  Often just taking time to sit down together undisturbed, talking about your feelings can bring out the desired a change in the relationship.  Be open and honest with each other but not judgmental.  It is often very difficult to leave out the judgment critic.  Remember you each have equal rights to voice your thoughts and feelings.  Listen to the other person; it’s very likely you will learn something.

You will have to set some rules for this engagement.  Maybe it needs to be in an independent space, neither person’s home or office.  A coffee shop during a quiet period would be ideal.  Just as long as you are both comfortable with the location.  Then set the rules and boundaries.  This should not be the opportunity for a slanging match or verbal abuse.  It is not meant to become a battle field.  Before the meeting think “calmness, balance, poise, good temper etc”.

So it’s worth a try.  You have nothing to lose and much to gain.  Then when you see it work with one person try it on any other family with whom you think you have a problem.

Then take it out into the world.  We know that nothing happens without action.  This can be the first step.  Our world certainly needs some peace and harmony.  Perhaps you can begin an ever increasing circle of peace and harmony.


My rainbow

Sunday for tea

Sunday for tea I’ll see you Sunday for tea
And though it’s not far away each hour’s a day to me
Lettuce and ham or maybe crumpets and jam
Oh baby it’ll be fun Havin’ a Sunday tea
So sang Peter and Gordon in the 1960s.

For our family, Sunday afternoon tea was a ritual.  The whole family that is Grandma and Poppy, their two sons and daughter, their spouses and the 9 grandchildren regularly met on Sunday at Grandma and Poppy’s apartment.

While the adults talked and discussed whatever adults discussed, the 8 granddaughters and the sole grandson amused themselves as children did then. We played cards, dominoes, monopoly and other childish games that our grandchildren would not think of playing today.

DominoesPlaying cards


The adults would, of course, have cups of tea while catching up on the gossip.  They all lived near each other, in fact, my grandparents lived in our apartment complex.  Families saw and interacted with each other in a much closer way than they do now.  Really it was one big, mostly happy, family then.

As 5 pm approached the wives, that is mother and her two sisters-in-law, would go to the kitchen to prepare tea for us all.  In retrospect, it seems that every Sunday we had the same things.  Egg and tomato sandwiches, made with white bread as there was no choice then. I think occasionally there would be sardine instead of egg but egg and tomato is what I remember.  There would be small cakes that one or other of the sisters-in-law had baked and of course, Mother’s Victoria sponge cake.

Victoria sponge cakeTea cup and saucer

I can’t imagine, or indeed remember where everybody sat for Tea.  The apartment was quite small but somehow every Sunday we all ate together.

The table was always set, with the prized epergne in the centre.

Lovely centerpiece

This was a thing of rare beauty in our world.  Most of the things in that era following the ending of the Second World War were functional rather than beautiful.  I have no idea where this thing came from or where it went.  I hope that one of the grandchildren has it and treasures it still.

Shortly after tea, with the table cleared, dishes washed (by hand, no dishwashers back then) and the kitchen, the living room and the ‘blue’ room where the children amused themselves, put back to order, we all departed to meet again next week.

I don’t know when this ritual ceased, but I hold it as one of my very dear memories of a happy, carefree and much-loved childhood. And when I think of it I think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Lamplighter”

“My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at tea-time and before you take your  seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.”

It doesn’t have much to do with tea at Grandma’s but I really love it.  For the rest of that poem, which is firmly stuck in my head from childhood go to The Lamplighter

And of course there have been many stories about tea parties, some involving famous people but I think few will exceed the happy memories I have of those Sunday afternoon teas with the family.