A Normal Family

Today I went to see a professional and good friend, and we chatted casually while she performed her artistic trade on me. Because we know each other well, I asked about her family, her husband, daughter of 13 and son of 10. Suffice it to say she is a skilled, highly educated professional who is dedicated to her family life, has the support of her grandparents who raised her, and does everything in her power to manage her home and professional interests to a high level of perfection.

To my generic question “How’s the family?”, my friend replied with the standard “Oh, they’re doing well. The kids are getting on fine in school, do their homework and their lessons. My son is good at math and he likes his martial arts”. Later she continued “There are some challenges…….but its only normal.” “Like what?” I asked. “Well, my son really needs me all the time, and I have a soft spot for him, you know.” She smiled as if to say yes, I’m guilty of favoring him, since we had discussed favoritism before. I tried to figure out whether she or her husband is the Prime parent, but she was careful not to give me any clues. She emphasized that she and her husband are equal partners in raising the children, that each plays a vital role and that there is no difference in the duties they carry out in their routine. She declared unequivocally: “My husband and I both do everything when it comes to the house or the children”.

Soon, to try to appease her guilty conscience she added “But my daughter is really close to her father. That’s the way it works in our family: my daughter has her father and my son has me (smile)”. Then to ward off more guilt she added “They try to play us off against each other. If they want something and one of us says no, they go to the other one. But we’re on top of that! We consult each other and keep things consistent between us” (referring to standard CBT tactics of teamwork and consistency among parents).

All the while, knowing that parents inevitably divide into Prime and Additional Love Giving roles, and that favoritism is always a key issue in any “normal” family, I’m thinking la-de-da-de-da-de-da……, but I said “Okay” and left it at that.

So she continued her treatment on me. A few minutes later she piped up again to say “Yesterday my daughter was upset with me so she started hitting me. She’s bigger than me now.” She shrugged and added sheepishly “I didn’t know what to do, so I hit her back”. Now, I know my friend is far from a child abuser, but since I wasn’t in a position to respond right away I just said nothing and we went on to other small talk while she finished working on me.

As I was preparing to leave I looked at her and said “You know, your daughter is angry with you because you’re too close with your son.” She smiled, a little surprised. But pursing her lips she conceded: “You got it right. I guess that’s why you’re the expert”. “I just listen carefully” I replied smiling. “You said she was hitting you, and you told me you’re too close to him. That’s all I need to know”. Then realizing she was probably now open to listening to more, I continued “Sometimes you really have to grit your teeth and pretend you love them, even in moments when you know you don’t. And that’s tough!”

I didn’t bother to tell her that incidentally she had informed me she is the Prime Love Giver, since I don’t like to delve too far into people’s lives. I know this because of the LOVE she expressed for her son and her daughter’s reaction of anger with her, even though the daughter apparently turns to her father for affection. It indicates her son is Favored, while her daughter is jealous of him and angry with her mother for favoring him. We might touch on that another time, but not necessarily.