This is a riskier essay to put out there (more so than Wimpy Texter!), but I’m going to do it for a couple of reasons. 1) I’m not really shy about sharing Real Life, even the ugly parts. 2) I grew up with an extended family that made long-term decisions to cut each other off. I never understood this way of thinking in a life that was already too short. Consequently, I really want to raise my children with the belief that this is NOT an option. When relationships get tough, we aren’t going to be quitters. 3) This essay isn’t just about a specific person, although it was inspired by a particular person. It is really a composite of all the times we make stupid decisions, say stupid things, feel stupid feelings, blow issues out of proportion, and need someone to remind us to take a step back and put life back into perspective. That applies to me too. I’m guilty of all the mistakes. However, I don’t want to live my life stuck in ugly places. I always want to try and do better.
Dear Punk Sibling,
I know you don’t talk to anyone because you have your list of grievances that I’m sure are 100% The Truth. That’s okay. I still love you, even though I’ve spent a lifetime liking your friends better. Just kidding. I didn’t say that.
Look, Middle Child, life is hard. It’s so soul-twisting, draining, and achingly difficult. There is one thing you can, in theory, be able to depend on.
At least I can safely say that we can depend on OUR family. I can speak to that.
But since we are human and flawed and all different shades of ugly inside of us with our own unique stories of pain and joy, we don’t always get along with our family. Sometimes we don’t even like our family. Personality conflicts. This can happen anywhere, anytime.
It seems that too often we forgive a personality conflict when it happens with a stranger or a colleague or even with a significant other. But with family? We carry our resentment to our graves. Somehow we think our family owes us the ability to be something more than human.
If you carry around your resentment, your pain, and/or your grievances, after awhile you’re going to get tired. Cranky. Sometimes we just have to stop blaming Mom for the fact that we chose to dress horribly in the fourth grade. She didn’t force anyone to cut those sweatpants into shorts. We have to let it go, like a balloon that has escaped your grasp, and let our eyes trace its movement as it floats up, up, up and away. Then, stop looking for it. Just let it go.
We know you think Dad is annoying. He is kind of annoying. But he thinks you’re annoying and you kind of are. So am I. We all think the other person can be annoying. Duh. That’s a universal human Thing. That is not a reason to change your phone number.
I can’t waste precious days of my life in contention, especially not with the people I swim in the same gene pool with. Forgive soon and often. Even forgive yourself. Mistakes will happen. I’ve made lots of mistakes. We all have. But we have to be able to leave mistakes behind us and move on and work toward the better versions of ourselves instead of getting stuck.
As a parent who feels like every day is an obstacle course raising children, I wonder how Dad doesn’t hit you upside your head when you seem to forget all of the hours he spent at your baseball practices and games, playing pickle and catch with you in the street, playing golf, listening to your annoying stutter all throughout elementary school, putting up with your sensitivity, pretending not to hate the way you suddenly became a cat man when you found a girlfriend.
Basically, if you had to use 1% of the energy that was spent raising you, you’d be on your back, legs up in the air, DEAD like an insect who overdosed on Raid. If you knew the energy expended, if you really understood, you wouldn’t be acting like a punk.
You just wouldn’t.
We had food on the table. We had two parents. A roof over our head–always our own rooms. Nobody abused us (except for that time we hotdogged you in a rollaway bed at the Imperial Palace in Vegas and rolled you to the toilet that we flushed repeatedly in your face). You might deserve reparations for that stunt. Maybe.
Seriously though, our most compelling grievance from childhood is that Mom made cream of chicken for dinner way too many times. But think of all the times she made the food you liked. And she NEVER got mad when you drank all of the milk and ate all of our food with the appetite of an insatiable termite, no matter how much a fit your sisters threw about it. If anyone has a grievance, it’s your sisters, because you ALWAYS picked the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms.
I think we can all agree that we escaped the possible dangers of childhood pretty much unscathed. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us the best gift I can think of: a vanilla childhood.
We already know how fragile life is. We’ve experienced the premature death of one of our members. We are not promised any of our tomorrows. We are wasting time that we will never get back. I don’t want to meet again at one of our funerals.
I hope we’ll see you at Thanksgiving. At least Skype with us. Okay, we’ll even accept a text back.
At the very least, think about it. Think about whether or not all of the stupid stuff is worth it.
Either way, we still love you.
Your Punk Sister