Monday, March 22, 2010

Permission to Whine?

It happened again. It happens a lot. EFE, or Extended Family Envy. I've never written about it because, A- It doesn't apply to the book, really, and B- I hate whining. Whine I will, though, so don't say I didn't warn you.

My family went to a morning hockey game yesterday, then to lunch. Seated next to us was a happy extended family. Several attractive generations in pushed-together tables, cooing over the babies and laughing. A lot.

For whatever reason, it got to me.. Why do THEY get to have parents and grandparents? Why do THEY get to support each other, share their lives, and pass down cousin-clothes along with the family traditions? What I'm really asking is why did MY parents have to check out so early?

I know, I know. Poor me. Sad old orphan.

I usually keep it under control. I may steal a guilty glance at these long livers, but then I let it go. Usually. Sometimes it sneaks past the filter. It gets to me when I least expect it, or when I most expect it. You see, Easter's coming. That dreaded time of year when I'm faced with several generations of shiny pink Southern females in coordinated dresses. And bags. And hats. They pose for pictures before brunch. I hate them, love them, begrudge and envy them.

What right do I have to complain, though? I had wonderful parents who loved me. I have a husband and children now. I'm pretty sure they love me. I am grateful, I tell myself as we order our lunch. Maybe it's because we lost the hockey game. It's just.....look at them! They're at their giant table, hugging and congratulating, confiding and cheek-kissing. Is it wrong to hope they have a skeleton in the closet? An absent son in rehab or a granddaughter in juvie? Nah, not this bunch. They look solid, educated. I bet they all have a standing Sunday dinner together and seldom whine.


(I have to thank/blame Michelle Neff Hernandez for this little outburst. She admitted to some "bitter widow" thinking as she observed happy families in the park recently. It struck a chord with me. She's amazing. Take a look.)


  1. {sigh} Okay I admit I have felt this way before, my wonderful amazing neighbors created 4 children, who had their own children who are having children... they have gatherings around the fire-pit and BBQ in the backyard, which my kitchen window faces... so much love and sharing, laughter and food, so much history and common ground...

    Our family is either deceased or too far to travel willingly to our neck of the woods. So I yearn for the big family thing when I see the neighbors cavorting, all of them from tiny babies to the elders sharing their wisdom...

    The antidote, I suppose, is two-fold for me. One, I recall all the complaining I hear from friends when their family events become overwhelming, or relatives wear out the welcome mat, or they describe potato salad for fifty.

    Second, working privately with clients in health education, I have come to realize that all families have skeletons, and none of the "perfect family" syndrome is free from drama or pain.

  2. Of course. The perfect family (or any size) is an illusion.

    As for your antidote, it's true. It can be simpler. My husband has joked about how much we save every Christmas by having such a short gift list. Not everyone appreciates our humor, but those in "our" boat laugh!

    I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, Jan. Thank you.


When someone dies, (other than attending the service), I do this for the family-