IN THE FAMILY. YOU'RE INVITED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS NEW COLUMN
OUR daughter was home from college for the summer, and I wanted to share with her a funny skit I had taped from TV. I rewound the tape, then fastforwarded it, sure that I knew right where to stop.
A few more minutes of searching proved otherwise. Our daughter, who had been reading the newspapers, set them down noisily and sighed. My husband, who had been standing by the wall switch, waiting to dim the lights, walked into the kitchen.
``I can't get it!'' I blurted out, in a sudden rage.
I turned off the machine and stomped into the kitchen.
``They're impossible,'' I thought. ``They act as if I can simply snap my fingers, and, voila, I'll have it!'' I poured myself a glass of water and returned to the living room, avoiding eye contact.
My husband and daughter just stared at me, then at one another. ``What was that all about?'' he asked. So we talked.
They had no inkling that I felt they were impatient with me. They were waiting, it's true, but they had other matters on their minds, too.
What surfaced for the first time was an awareness that we had spent many years trying to please one another, each feeling responsible for the others' happiness.
In trying to make the others happy, we had each tried to read minds. After all, why should our own family members have to say out loud what any sensitive person could divine merely from observing subtle eye movements and other body language?
This expectation of often being taken care of by other family members - and of often taking care of them - may have had less to do with the golden rule of being kind to others than one might think. Rather, it may have revealed a childish desire to be waited on - mixed with a sense of self-importance. Ultimately, this behavior was as unkind as it was unhealthy.
To change this, we now practice saying out loud what we used to think should be obvious, and we are learning to ask what others think, as well.
What a difference! No more guessing games. We were lousy players anyway.
Further, in taking responsibility for communicating our thoughts to one another - instead of blaming the others for not understanding - we find not only that we are able to see to our own needs, but that we are better able to be truly kind to others.
We have always cared very much for one another - now we show one another how much we care.
If you would like to share a short constructive experience about family relationships, please send it with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to In the Family, Home & Family page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.
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