Like pirates dueling for a treasure chest on the deck of the Flying Dutchman, families can sometimes descend into madness, chaos, and (emotionally if not physically) deadly struggles for ascendancy.
You see it all the time in teenagers and pre-teen siblings. At least I do, in my two offspring. Anne Bonny and Blackbeard the Pirate are in a daily epic struggle to lord over each other, and the Jolly Roger would not be inappropriate decor in the hall that separates their bedrooms. Now that I think of it, I believe I need to make a trip to the local pirate supply store. In fact, I may rename the kitchen “The Pirate Bay”, and declare it neutral territory, a pirate demilitarized zone.
At the moment, several battles simultaneously rage on both my side and my wife’s side of the family. We have so far been successful in avoiding becoming entangled in either set of disputes, but it’s a fine line to walk. There is constant circumspection to ensure that nothing we say inaccurately implies that we are taking a side. It shouldn’t be this way, but rather it should be a time when we all realize just how frayed everyone’s nerves are, and make generous allowances for perceived slights.
These are difficult times for the various branches of my children’s family, for many and sundry reasons, and it’s painful to see close family ties stretched and pulled over things that seem so inconsequential from the outside. Of course, were we involved in such a dispute, those things would not seem inconsequential at all, but rather insults worthy of mortal combat. We are each as guilty as the next family member of prying apart when we should be pulling together.
And perhaps that is the lesson we should be taking from here to the next period of familial distress. I hope that during the next major family crisis directly involving us, we can think back to this point in time and bear in mind the larger landscape on which the events of our lives are painted. I hope that we remember that those mortal insults are really just minor escapes of thoughtlessness in times of great stress.
I hope we remember that there is nothing, not one single thing, more important than family.