Thursday, April 18, 2013

Families should celebrate triumphs together

It comes as no shock to regular readers that Olaf has a difficult relationship with his family. Imagine choosing to live with your in-laws in marked preference to moving back with your own folks. (No, I wouldn't have been happy with either option either, if I'd been forced to make such a terrible choice back in the day -- but I'd have preferred we live with my own parents, just as I'm sure my wife would have preferred we live with her parents. It's probably the difference between the Devil you know and -- well, never mind.)

I touched on Olaf's issues a little when the Baby-to-be-named-later was born. I'm not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV, but even I can tell that Olaf's issues with his parents predate his marriage and our granddaughter. Based on my limited exposure, Olaf's parents seem like nice-enough folks. Yes, they're over-the-top baby crazy (see the linked post) but that's not a terrible thing. I was more concerned that they seemed so out-of-sync with their son's health when we were trying (unsuccessfully) to get Olaf to graduate on time. But such things are none-of-my-never-mind.

Olaf's father was trained as an architect and has gravitated into art and, in particular, painting over the years. Recently he was given the honor of a gallery showing by some group out in one of the western suburbs. Even Olaf recognized that this was a Big Deal and that he would need to go.

But he approached the prospect of going to the opening like a criminal mounting the scaffold to be hanged. He didn't want to take his wife and daughter.

Long Suffering Spouse and I try not to interfere (much) in the day-to-day lives of our young tenants, but this was an exception. We told Younger Daughter on no uncertain terms that she would go with, and the baby would go, too.

"But Olaf's parents will just fuss over the baby, when the day should be about Olaf's dad," Younger Daughter protested. "And everyone will be in baby's face and it'll be a mess."

And, of course, the baby started teething in the run-up to the gallery show, which made the baby miserable and the kids even more apprehensive about taking her.

"Maybe we'll go in separate cars," Younger Daughter offered, at one point. "That way I can take the baby and leave if she becomes a problem."

But Long Suffering Spouse and I maintained a united front: You will go as a family. It will be fine.

The big day arrived. Olaf had fretted himself sick with worry over the event but (and this counts as an improvement, honestly) he'd not incapacitated himself. Still, he and Younger Daughter moved at a glacial pace. Olaf appeared finally ready to go. He sat down to watch the baseball game with Long Suffering Spouse and me in the den for a little while and his phone beeped. "What's that?" I asked. "Oh," he said, "I set an alarm to let me know the last possible second that we could leave and still have a chance of being there on time."

I excused myself and went upstairs, the better to hurry Younger Daughter along. She wasn't ready. She hadn't even dressed the baby. "Well, Olaf's not ready either," she said. I told her that he looked ready to me. "Well, the car's not packed," she harrumphed. "You and the baby should be ready regardless," I said.

Eventually, they got ready... and still more eventually they left. Long Suffering Spouse had one last piece of advice. "Take the stroller," she said. I guess the car seat locks into the stroller (I haven't paid attention). But the bottom line was that Long Suffering Spouse knew, even if the kids couldn't puzzle it out for themselves, that people wouldn't insist on carrying the baby as long as the kid seemed happy and content in the stroller. And that's how things worked out. Sure, people made a fuss over the baby -- but the baby was just there to celebrate her grandfather's big day. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Older Daughter called moments after the kids finally left. "She went with?" Older Daughter asked, incredulously. "I would not have gone," she declared. "She needs to show those in-laws a thing or two."

(Older Daughter has issues with her own in-laws. I can't imagine why....)

Long Suffering Spouse and I tried to explain it all again to Older Daughter: This was a big day for Olaf's dad. Olaf and his new family needed to be there to celebrate. There are enough sad occasions when extended families have to gather together -- and too darn few happy ones. There will still be rough patches in the relationships -- there are in most families I've ever heard of -- but there can be happy memories, too, and those will mean more in the long run than any lingering disputes.

Olaf and Younger Daughter were pleasantly surprised at how well things went at the show. And the baby was well-behaved. Long Suffering Spouse and I weren't surprised one little bit.

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