Keeping the family ties

I am very lucky.

I am very close to my family. We email each other every day and we talk a couple of times on the phone every week. We discuss everything, make big decisions together, ask for each other’s opinion before making personal decisions, and we are always looking out for each other. We have little inside jokes, stories that only we find funny — like the time our car started smoking on a trip to Austria and in the confusion my mom yelled for my brother to stay in the car while we all scurried to the side of the road.

We’ve always been like this, ever since I can remember. Sure, we live far apart right now, but that hasn’t changed these dynamics so far. I might have gigantic phone bills, but I still call my parents first when something big happens, or if I am having a bad day, or if I need advice on anything.

And that is a problem now that I’m married. Well, it’s not a problem for me, but it is a problem for Drew. And so it is a problem for me.

But how do I stop? My parents have known me since, well, birth, and my brother and I shared a room well into our teenage years. We tell each other the stuff that we can’t tell our parents and we are the keepers of each other’s childhood memories. It’s hard for anyone to compete with that.

So, the first step was to realize that I was doing this. It’s so natural for me to pick up the phone and talk to my parents — I don’t even have to think about it. Don’t know if I should take that job offer? Call Mom. Can’t decide what to cook for dinner? Call Mom. Having a really bad day? Call my parents. And my brother too, while I’m at it. Sometimes, I’ll be talking to Mom on her cell phone, while my brother will be talking to my Dad on their land line. That way, all four of us are connected. It’s weird, I know.

But I never looked at it from Drew’s perspective. After I’ve discussed everything with my family, I didn’t have to say anything to Drew about my crisis. It was solved, after all. But that just made him feel like his opinion didn’t matter, as if he didn’t have a say in my life. And he’s not the only one who was bothered by this: my brother’s wife, Jenny, is also uncomfortable with our closeness. Neither of their families are like mine — sure, they might get along and talk a few times a month, but if something big is going down, Drew’s first call is to me.

It’s a tricky balancing act, letting Drew in and showing him that his opinion matters, while also maintaining the bond I have with my family. He is slowly beginning to understand that my family’s relationship — while weird and unnatural to him — is what makes me, me. At times, I think he might even be a little jealous of what we share and he enjoys being a part of our crazy clan.

I’m learning to share more with him and involve him more in every dilemma I face, big or small. He’s turning out to be a patient listener with his own twist on every situation, and I must admit that I enjoy the variety of opinions I get from all sides.

In the next couple of months, my parents will be moving to Maine. It will be a time of adjustment for all of us — they will be getting used to a new country, town, apartment, jobs and grocery store. I’ll be getting used to lower cell phone bills and having them close by again and also balancing my time between them and Drew.

I’m really looking forward to their move, even though I’m aware that it’s not going to be easy for any of us in the beginning. But at least I have lots of places to turn for advice.

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