How Do I Explain To My Kid That My Family Doesn’t Get Along

My family was dealing with a deep rift long before the 2016 season punched its meaty fist into the guts of families across the country. The details of the schism are unimportant and not mine to disclose, but it started back in 2004 at a family wedding and culminated in a near-fistfight at a 2013 Little League T-ball game.

My son drew on the couch when he was a baby, the bad feelings have lingered like the Sharpie design.

When the gulf between my brother and sister (and then, later, my sister and my parents) began, my children were too young to notice that we never saw some members of the family at the same time.

They had no idea how much effort I put into house-to – house shuttling, breaking up our visits so that each group will have equal time. As the only sister who is still getting along with all the competing sides, I have to navigate with my kids in tow whenever we visit my family through the hurt feelings and emotional landmines.

I’m not saying that I believed it was all peachy-loving, but I didn’t give information because the kids didn’t ask. I promised to give them straight answers when they figured out I had relatives who refused to stand together in the same room. My daughter’s in second degree this year. She began finding my family side is not as strong as my husband’s.

As she put it so eloquently: “Mommy, how come we can’t all be with your side, like Daddy’s? She agreed that we would all get together for the holidays as soon as she knew, so she could play with all her cousins at once.

I paused at the invites, realizing my brother and sister would never sit together at the same table, no matter how much it meant to my daughter. But my daughter had stayed on me.

Anyone who will come? Looking to learn. I dodged her questions and evaded them until my non-answers made me feel too guilty. I had to tell her the truth: My family hasn’t got along for a long time and doesn’t get along. She might have my sister and her children, or my brother and his, but she couldn’t have the two.

When I finally told her the truth, her eyes grew huge in surprise. They both felt wounded and wouldn’t want to be together. Anyway? She was wondering. She clearly couldn’t imagine siblings going years without talking. She looked at her younger brother, undoubtedly trying to imagine what it would feel like to deny him a week of love and company, much less for almost a decade.

She said she felt sad about not being able to enjoy all of her cousins at once.

That has been a heartbreaker. And this is also what I wish. I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone in my family wants — that chronic pain hurts. I can’t talk but I can talk for myself.

This is difficult to clarify why my family members have not spoken in years. Explaining my daughter’s condition stirred my grief about our shattered family which is broken in ways I can’t repair.

It is a tragedy I would have liked to save her, but that is not likely. Now she knows that being a family is not always sufficient to guarantee a lifetime of association, nor is it sufficient to save a relation. And all I can do is hope that I can give her and her brother opportunities to work through the challenges that they face so that they can sidestep the stigma of pain and separation.


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