November 9, 2001
Each of us can only interpret the world from our own realm of experiences
which may be by direct involvement or vicariously. In our multifaceted society
misassessments grow and spread like viruses.
Our culture is composed of varied life styles. The same vocabulary means
different things to different individuals. One mother-in-law accepts her
daughter-in-law as family and feels she is paying a compliment when she unexpectedly
visits her daughter-in-law and says, "Oh that smells good. You could invite me to
dinner anytime." The D.-in-law who views in-laws as evil witches says, "I
didn't invite you."
Two issues are operating here. One,the family orientation is not mutually
shared. The second, the older women has a unique way of showing her approval.
When there are opposing views on the role obligations of the extended
family members a gift of ones time to do the laundry or clean up the house by the
older parent is often misconstrued as a criticism of the efficiency of the younger
members as a housekeeper. Especially when the marriage is fairly new and the wife
does not feel secure as to what her obligations should be.
Some persons grow up in homes that are unaffectionate and others mature
with a constant loving hand. Put these opposites together as in-laws, and either
may feel that the other is overstepping boundaries. The more distant one may feel
that the affectionate one is clingy and intruding on the privacy of the other.
The lovey-dovey one may feel rejected.
Since generational difficulties are presented from a unilateral point of
view usually by the younger parities. All the counselor is able to do is to try
to see both points of view and hope that there is an open mindedness approach.
It helps to air the situation if this is possible. Writing each other ones
background that influenced the way that they constructed their thoughts may help. In
all misunderstandings the resolutions are developed only when each member of the
family wants the same goals of unity, and harmony. Without that agreement there
is little hope of resolution.
Misunderstandings are cute when an infant is little, but as they grow our
expectations are sometimes more inappropriate than their actions. Many years
ago, a friend of mine had a three year old child who stopped eating for two weeks.
After Doctors were ineffective, she finally discussed the problem with the
child. She told me that he had told her that he stopped eating because it distressed
him to flush what he felt was part of himself down the toilet. Once his mother
explained to him that it was necessary to have to throw out garbage from the
kitchen and that our body gets rid of garbage by a bowel movement, the problem was
Parents may view a child as a pest when the child is not feeling well.
Then scold him/her only to find that that evening the child has a fever. It is
difficult to be monitoring oneself in every relationship every minute of the day.
We all make mistakes and we shouldn't crucify ourselves for them, but we can
question the cause of unusual behavior.
As a child of eight years I was playing with a teacher's son of about six
years. He gave me my first introduction into guns. He had one which he loaded
with pebbles from his driveway, and then aimed it at me, and pulled the trigger.
Then he gave me the play rifle. I did what he did, only my aim hit him. He
ran screaming to tell his mother. I had no idea why he was screaming. It never
occurred to me(at the age of eight) that he could have shot me. I had not made
the connection between the pebble and the trigger.
Mrs. Tuttle became my teacher
in sixth grade. She made my life a living hell because she believed I knew what I
was doing. Children may not understand the rules of life (such as my
what a Beebe gun can do.) Children can be punished for something they
don't understand. At a forty-year class reunion I was told Mrs. Tuttle's son was
in prison. Draw your own conclusions on this piece of information.
There are cultural differences. In France holding the index finger to the
tip of the thumb creating a round circle means zero, no good. However in this
country it means excellent. The different attitudes for the same actions causes
I complimented a fisherman on his sensitivity as a good husband. I said
to his wife, "He's a keeper." He became very insulted. He said, "You are
comparing me to fish? I am a fish?"
Now you see how careful one has to be? Misunderstandings abound. However
all I and his wife needed to do was to laugh and say, "You keep the best fish.
I am just saying that you are the best husband amongst most men and she should
not let you go."