Most everyone I know loves this time of year. May brings to a close the long dry spell of cold weather and sparse holidays. This month kicks off a string of celebrations including Mother’s Day, graduation parties, Memorial Day, Father’s Day and July 4th. Barbecues, vacations, picnics and family get-togethers are the stuff of which family memories are made; scrapbooks everywhere are chock full of snapshots of these happy events.
I tend to be one of those people who idealizes holidays and family get-togethers. I admit it, and it’s not a good way to be. I build these affairs up in my mind, expecting everything from perfect weather to smooth sailing relationship-wise. And when an occasion never quite measures up, I walk away disappointed, befuddled and a bit more jaded (until the next one rolls around, when I fall for it all over again). I can’t help myself; I think there’s a scientific name for my condition, but it escapes me right now.
I often address this very topic when I write - in fact, my first book examined wildly derailed clan festivities – and I’ve found over the years that most people can totally relate to what I’m saying. I’ve also seen my theory borne out again and again in my life and in others’: When the occasion is one that involves family, chaos and craziness are givens, almost necessary ingredients. In fact, this is such a common phenomenon that I actually asked a family counselor here in Gwinnett why that is.
His answer made perfect sense. He said, “When we move out of our parents’ house and make our own families, then all get back together for any occasion, we revert right back to yesteryear when we were kids. Old jealousies and rivalries rekindle; we all tell stories about each other from the old days, and for good measure, there’s usually some kind of alcohol thrown into the mix. Of course we get detonation; it’s a pressure cooker just waiting to explode.”
I’ve talked with literally hundreds of people who’ve shared their wacky family get-together stories with me over the years. Many of the stories end with relatives storming out and vowing never to speak to so-and-so ever again. Still others draw to a close with a distant aunt or grandma running from the room, sobbing. Some end up in the local hospital emergency room, and still others come to a close with a visit from the cops. In any case, I fully understand why there’s such a steady need for therapists for adults in their 30s and up. It takes about that long for us to get that our families, while we love them, are the reason we turn out like we do. A therapist can talk us through all the stuff that made us crazy in the first place, hopefully realizing after several sessions that we’re not alone. I don’t know why, but there’s comfort in that.
Here’s my sincerest wish for you and your family to thoroughly enjoy every celebration that’s coming this summer. After all, while our families may make us crazy, they also love us. They get the inside jokes and while they may tease us mercilessly, they’re also the first to have our backs when it matters.
And if that didn’t make you feel better, relax in the knowledge that you’re not alone in feeling that unsettling fluttering in the pit of your stomach at the mention of another family cookout.
Does your family drive you crazy at get-togethers, or is yours the exception?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of the recently-released book, “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in summer 2012.