December 12, 2012

Feeling Like A Child

Childhood relics at your parent's house can set a person back.

There's an article in Cosmo magazine (I know, I know, but my littlest sister pointed it out [who is their demographic, after all] and it wasn't awful) offering advice for those with emotional distress when home for the holidays. It was targeted at the young adults who are newly into their adult lives: out of college, in big kid jobs with big kid responsibilities and lives, who suddenly feel like children as soon as they're back in their teenage rooms and being chauffeured in the back seat of mom and dad's car. 

This article was pointed out to us because it's my sister's way of telling us that she feels like we treat her like a child, and not like the young adult with responsibilities that she is. She's never been one to openly discuss her feelings, so just showing us an article in a magazine is an invitation to talk about it. 

So we talked about it. Not with her, of course, because we're a normal dysfunctional family. Amongst ourselves, though, yes. We discussed what she might be feeling, what she might want us to do, what we might be doing that is causing her to feel like we see her as a child. And we pointed a lot of fingers. OK, I did a lot of the finger pointing.

I haven't felt like a child when visiting back home in a few years. But I did feel like that when I was my sister's age. And I do feel like that at my boyfriend's parents' house. Not because they treat me like a kid, or treat him like a kid, not at all. In fact they treat us both like adults. And not because of the way they talk to either of us. But I do feel like a kid when we have to sleep in different rooms. 

To be perfectly fair, I fully understand that this is a their-house-their-rules type of situation and I would never, ever say a word (hope they don't find this); and it's not like we're married or engaged or even living together (though I seriously hope one of those things would cause the room situation to change). But my boyfriend, their son, is 30. We're in a serious enough relationship that we're taking each other to our respective families for the holidays. And I'm pretty sure they're both aware we spend the majority of our nights together. But I sleep in the room next to the master and he sleeps in a room on the other side of the house. And I feel like I'm 17 who needs to be stopped from doing naughty things with her boyfriend rather than an adult in a totally normal adult relationship.

The Cosmo article also touched on dealing with family opinions and beliefs that may be different from yours, giving changes in religious and political beliefs as an example. Having to sleep in a different room is conforming to a belief that I don't share. While this is a more extreme example from the annoying-but-harmless dinner table discussions about who voted for who the magazine was hinting at, the feeling is there. You don't want to say anything and start something (especially in my family...), but the article pointed out that if you don't speak up your family won't learn who you are as a new young adult. This is easily my sister's largest issue: blame it on the divorce, but both of my sisters are massive people pleasers who will do anything to avoid a fight and anything to make everyone else happy. This  means repressing a lot of their own feelings and emotions, which is also not healthy. 

If the holidays make you stressed out (and I think most people feel some stress during this time), do what you can for yourself. Take a step back, distance yourself if you have to, and remember that you can't control how other people react or feel. I was reminded that these situations are a two way street, and that each person has to give a little to get somewhere. Myself included.

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