Strong family ties
You may have noticed my September Nonna posts have focused on strong family ties --
There are many, many ways to build strong family ties, but all of them require thoughtful reflections followed by purposeful perseverance in the work. And boundaries.
Last week, Little Guy helped to let our small dog, Rosie, in and out of the house repeatedly, all day, every day he stayed with us while waiting for the air quality to improve in Bend. Now, Rosie is old – she is 17 – and while in relatively good health, she is entering that twilight of doggy dementia.
When she goes outside, Rosie has a set path: she trots down the stairs, walks to the West of the house and makes an entire circuit of the yard following the fence line. When she reaches the Northeast area of the yard, she then traverses through the garden headed as directly South as the boxes allow. She finally arrives back at the porch stairs.
Now, here is the critical moment – if Rosie misses the stairs for any reason, she MUST make the circuit again. Poor thing once got lost in the roses next to the stairs and refused to simply walk up them when rescued. And it doesn’t matter how recently Rosie has taken a constitutional – every time she goes out she is compelled to walk the boundary.
The routine must be comforting for her.
It all works best with boundaries
Helping Little Guy to open the door dozens of times so that he could care for Rosie gave me ample opportunity to think about boundaries. The world works on boundaries. From the macro- to the micro-level, the earth itself exists in the midst of physical boundaries - mass, energy, motion -- and our temporal sphere occupies a specific place in the galaxy and operates in ways we can predict. The animal kingdom is filled with all sorts of boundaries. Our society can only function well for everyone when we follow the rule of law – legislated boundaries.
The same is true for family life – it works best when the boundaries are so clear we simply live within them as a matter of routine. And when relationships are in flux – newly partnered or not, the arrival of a baby or a sibling, working and learning at home when everyone wants to be back to normal – it is important to talk about expectations and boundaries.
Being displaced for whatever reason is difficult at best! Both of my Daughters’ recent forays in temporarily living with parents or in-laws went better for them because they were able to work with everyone involved – except Little Guy, he was just enjoying all the new play -- to figure out needs and expectations and boundaries. It takes lots of communication and effort to get to a place where living within boundaries becomes routine.
(And I really appreciated Daughter putting the dishes in the dishwasher whenever Little Guy was done eating -- thanks!!)
Building strong family ties is not easy; there is plenty of opportunity for mistakes and misunderstandings. Think of these moments as golden – for every mistake there is a chance to sincerely express regret and for every misunderstanding there is an opening to talk. Conflict is a relationship deal-breaker only if you let it! With all the time we get to spend at home during this season, take advantage of these rough golden opportunities to build a life of treasure – strong family ties.
Okay, hokey. I know – but you get it!