Monday, September 6, 2010
On Exposing My Family Affairs
A temporary member of our family has finally arrived. I have hinted earlier that we are expecting someone to join us this Fall. Well, she is here and is resting now. Only she is not exactly suited to be our daughter as she is about 29 years my senior. She comes to us from Japan and will be with us for the next ten days studying English and hanging out with us. I have to be honest and say that her presence in our home is more awkward than I have expected. And she is not at fault at all. She is very pleasant, nice, patient and helpful. It is the younger family members of ours that are begging for some spanking. Or maybe it is their parents that are in need of discipline. Over the last three days, it has occurred to us that our dear offspring have been deprived of very basic lessons in manners. From making fun of the lady's name to goofing off during dinner to forgetting basic table etiquette such as keeping one's legs below the table and wiping one's month with a napkin instead of a t-shirt all while conversing in a language she did not come here to learn, the first impression of our family must have been a lovely one. She has now heard me more than once saying "Excuse my children" and will soon pick up on how to say "Behave your selves, now!" in Russian.
Now that we are on hosting individual number three in our home (a Ukrainian pastor for two months, a German friend of a friend, and our current visitor), we have thoroughly understood one obvious fact: while it is easier for adults to act like someone they are not, kids have a hard time being fakes. Though we try to stay real, I have noticed that with other people present in our home my husband and I have to be more conscious about our demeanour, our word choice and the tone of voice we use to speak to each other and our kids. To our shame, we realize that a lot of the time the pleasantness feels a bit unnatural to us. This is not to say that we are rude when we address each other, but we feel this constraint to act out our family's norm.
Maybe what we are feeling is normal and expected when exposing one's daily deeds to people outside the family circle. However, hosting a few of these outsiders this summer has helped us take a look at our family from the perspective of our visitors. Though all three of our visitors have been kind enough to keep their opinions about our lovely family to themselves, I can't help but to remain confused about what things should be kept the same in our family (even if they appear strange to others) and what things we need to work on improving. As parents, teaching our children to be themselves while conforming to the norms of the society has probably been the hardest task so far. In fact, I cannot say that I, an almost thirty year old adult has mastered it myself.
But, one thing is clear: exposing your family's business to others is awkward and feels unnatural. Not that we have much to hide, but some things need to be dealt with within the family, exclusively and having other people watching alters a person's behavior for the good and the bad.
I am glad she is only staying ten days. Not because she is a burden but because I am burdened with observing how our family operates on a daily basis. Until this summer, I considered my family to be fairly functional, loving, caring, supportive. Outsiders have (however silently) both validated this fact and opened my eyes to many areas of growth. And for that, I am thankful to their temporary presence.