Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. – Anthony Brandt
I’m twenty six this December – and I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in my family life over the past few years. Five years ago, when I was turning twenty-one, my brother and sister were still in school. I was at university part of the year, and “home” was with my parents. I’d been dating Paul for six months.
Five years on:
- My brother has been through university, including a semester spent in America – he goes back as often as he can to visit the friends he made there. He’s back at home living with my parents, and has been working for a year.
- My sister, the youngest of us three siblings, is half-way through her studies at Cambridge. She’s started drinking alcohol (the legal drinking age here is 18), which still surprises me! She has a boyfriend.
- I’ve had a traditional office job, before achieving a long-held dream of making my living writing. I’ve taken and finished an MA.
- Paul and I live in Oxford, near to my parents’ home and to my granny. We’re married.
My siblings and I are at the age when life moves fast. But there haven’t just been changes for us: my parents have changed too. My dad’s sold his company. My mum’s been promoted at work.
For all of us, it’s a time of adjustment. I particularly like reading Alex’s posts about his family and his growing children, because it gives me some idea of what my parents might be going through, with all three of their kids finally grown up.
Learning new ways to relate
As a child and teen, I had a bit of a rocky relationship with my dad. Now, I get on much more easily with him, and that means a lot to me. I’ve started to see and appreciate the many ways in which I’m similar to him, as well as to my mum: I get my entrepreneurial spirit from him, for instance, and my writing ability from my mum.
I’ve become much closer to my mum over the last few years, too. It’s been challenging at times learning to relate to my parents as a fellow adult – and I’m sure it’s been even tougher for them – but I’m really glad to have a strong, loving relationship with them both.
It’s weird watching my siblings grow up. It’s tough watching them go through some of the same struggles that I did during university and my first year or so afterwards – knowing that it’s part of their growth and that I can’t protect them from everything that might go wrong.
After several years where my brother and I had drifted apart, we’re starting to come back together again. Over the last year, I’ve realised that despite some differences – like our political views – we have a lot in common. We’ve got plans to start up a business together, combining our strengths: my knowledge of writing and the online world with my brother’s business acumen.
Yesterday, my sister came home for the Christmas vacation. Paul and I saw her just a couple of weeks ago, during a trip to Cambridge, but I’m still excited that she’s back home. I’ve missed her. She’s fun, creative, artistic, and provides an occasional much-needed dose of calm when I act like a typical oldest child and get anxious about everything running smoothly!
Learning to love, support … and accept
As the “bossy” big sister, it’s easy for me to slip into the role of trying to get my siblings to be “good”, to do what parents or grandparents want – or to try to encourage them in what I think is “right” for them.
I’ve realised, though, that that’s not a good way to show my love for my family. My brother and sister are unique, wonderful people with their own special skills and passions. Their ambitions are very different from my own.
My brother wants to immigrate to America. He’s focused on making money – not just for himself, but because he sees it as the primary measure of good. (He studied economics…) I don’t necessarily agree with everything he thinks but I still unconditionally support him.
My sister wants to settle down and raise a family – she doesn’t have big career ambitions. I’ve learned to bite my tongue! She has her own life to live. And again, while I might not agree with everything she thinks, I still support her.
Both my siblings think that Paul and I are crazy because, when we have kids, we want to homeschool them. I certainly recognise it’s an unconventional choice – but I hope it’s one that my family will come to accept, whether or not they agree with it.
I don’t know what your family looks like at the moment. Perhaps you’re in the same comfortable roles that you’ve had for years – or maybe this Christmas-time will have particular challenges because of shifting roles and relationships.
Whatever the case for you, I hope your family times will be filled with joy, and that – whatever difficulties there may have been in the past – you’ll be able to move forwards in love.
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