Painful Transitions

When my children were small I learned early on that you don’t make promises you can’t keep. It will come back to bite you.

You don’t promise a trip to Disney World if they will use the potty. Kids are baby elephants- they never forget a promise.

The other mistake I quickly learned to avoid was threatening all sorts of sanctions and outlandish punishments that I could not enforce. You are grounded for life never works, because at some point you want them to leave your house.

You learn (hopefully,) not to make these mistakes with your children, but what about other people in your life? Do you promise something to a loved one and then not deliver? Do you hurl punishments and banishment because you disagree with your child’s choice? No. Should you cut an extended family member out of your life because you don’t like their choices?

Every situation is different, but it seems to happen often in families with middle-aged siblings. Disagreements range from parent’s long-term care, disbursement of the estate, changes due to divorce, re-marriage, or the simple change of children growing up and leaving home. Sibling relationships can be fraught with land mines buried back in childhood. I’ve found similarities in these situations- most of the time, a parent or sibling does not see the other family members as adults because  an adult relationship was never fully formed. When the family gets together, patterns of behavior emerge and those old land mines of buried resentments are tripped.

The roles siblings are assigned in childhood- the clown, the irresponsible one, the weirdo, the baby, the drama queen, the peace keeper, and so on are hard to live down, or shake. And in some cases, a sibling holds tight to that role because it pleases the parent and the child to maintain that illusion formed firmly in the past.

When someone goes against his or her “type” or acts in a way others within the circle feel is not healthy for the family, then chaos can reign. To spark a change in the way the unit treats one another is frightening to some, threatening to others. Wagons circle and the instigator is often shunned, or worse.

Threats and false promises are less effective on someone in middle age, but they are no less painful.

Transition from childhood, to young adulthood is documented and discussed as the most trying time of your life. The transition from young adulthood to middle age  also brings on major upheaval and angst. The feelings are very similar pushing against parents and extended family while re-defining yourself can feel like a second adolescence.



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