Are You Playing Fair?

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Christmas Eve, 1973: 

My new hospital roommate wastes no time calling her adult children: 

I know it’s Christmas Eve, and I certainly don’t want to interrupt your time with your wife and children, but I thought I should let you know that I’m in the hospital. 

Well, they think it’s the same thing that killed your father, may God rest his soul, but I don’t want to interfere in your celebration. I was afraid that if you happened to call my house and got no answer, you might be concerned, so I am just calling to tell you where I am. 

What’s that? No, you don’t need to come down here. Even though the doctor thinks it’s my heart, it is Christmas Eve, after all, and I do not want to ruin your family’s fun.

I lay in the other bed, not quite fifteen years old and recovering from an emergency appendectomy. My new companion repeated this phone call, verbatim, six more times.

As you might imagine, within the hour, our room overflowed with all seven of her children, along with a few spouses and some grandchildren.

And even though I was in my early teens, I recognized that something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t fair about these calls. 

I thought about my back-when roommate the other day when I read this response to my grandparenting research:

Don’t make me, my wife, or my child your main source of happiness. Have your own life and interests and just let us be wonderful bonuses in your life. Let us be us be additions that bring you joy, yes, but that you don’t desperately need to be happy.

So today I’m wondering: What is the tipping point? When does love descend into manipulation?

I’m pretty sure none of us wants to be an emotional millstone hanging from the necks of our children, our grandchildren.

We don’t want to weigh them down, right? We want to give them wings, right? 

I’m wondering, tonight, if the kindest thing would be just to ask: Is stuff between us good for you? If not, what do we need to do differently? 

And then, the hardest part: listening with an open heart. 

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)

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On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). The conversation began on January sixth and we’ll continue until we run out of things to say. Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear from each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.

Please join us. Be a part of the conversation.

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