Same Crazy Family, A Different Me

Yesterday was my birthday. (In case you’re wondering, I turned 26. Again.)

Like last year, this year I asked my parents if they would have us over for dinner. My dad grills the best steak you’ve ever tasted and his fried potatoes are out of this world.

Like last year, I brought my boys to my childhood home after a day of parenting them, alone. And, like last year and all of the years of my life, my parents bickered throughout dinner. My boys ran in a house that you are not allowed to run in. And my little brother, the one whose wife recently left him when he didn’t have money for groceries but somehow managed to get stoned all day, everyday, was as disengaged as ever.

Last year I left feeling lonely and depressed, carrying stress that vibrated throughout my whole body. I wished I’d spent my birthday in a hot bathtub with a book, instead.

But this year I left feeling blessed and grateful: for the lovely hanging basket my mother gave me, for the gluten free cake prepared for all to share, for the delicious dinner, and for the chance to get together in my childhood home before my parents move out this month.

My family of origin has not changed. I have.

I’ve been using some of my Al-Anon tricks–namely detachment, love, and acceptance–and they sure do come in handy when dealing with my crazy family.

My parents bickering over when to put the corn on? Detachment. Not my problem. Serenity prayer–they aren’t going to change. They’ve been having this same argument, every night, since I was in diapers. Time to accept what I cannot change–them.

My brother who never asks me a single question about my life and gives flip, one-word answers when I politely inquire about his? Love and acceptance, bro. This is who he is. He’s not changing. Though I wish our relationship were different, there’s not much I can do except practice love and acceptance.

Last year my children stressed me out. They acted silly to get attention, they ran away from me, and they can be pretty badly behaved. Big Brother is now on a gluten free diet in addition to getting daily interventions at his special preschool, but I’ve also learned to accept my boys for who they are, love them even when they drive me crazy, and detach instead of taking their behavior so personally.

My family is still crazy, but I’ve changed, and I can enjoy limited time with them for perhaps the first time in my life.

That feels pretty good. Seems like a good way to kick off my next year!