Inspired by the book, Dance of Anger, we began asking a few questions of our families over the holidays. We asked each of the in-laws what their relationships were like with their brothers and sisters and what their hopes and fears were for their own kids.
Father-in-law had two hopes for his children: that they would “never lose faith” and that they would have work that they enjoyed.
He then started talking about his siblings and blamed his lack of closeness with certain ones as a result of their loss of faith. He clearly stated that he couldn’t have a close relationship with someone who wasn’t “growing in the faith.” (Yep, it was all their fault, not his.)
The most interesting information was on the family trend of golden boy/black sheep. On one side of the family through several generations, sons were mini-gods. Their sisters existed to serve them.
My mother-in-law, the smartest one in her family, told how she would hide her test scores in order to not threaten her older brother. He was the guy, and everyone knew he was supposed to be on top. Only the youngest sister challenged his position.
He ended up being the family black sheep. When I entered the family, his side of the family was not on speaking terms with anyone else. This was blamed on his wife.
On the other side, the oldest son truly was gifted. He also became the family black sheep. Both are now reconciled.
I married the oldest son of two people whose older brothers were supposed to be the golden boys and ended up being the black sheep.
My husband was both pushed to be the best, at times to the expense of his siblings, and jumped on at the slightest sign of independence or rebellion.
So now I am faced with an interesting position. When our in-laws’ siblings lost faith, they became outsiders in the family. When the one brother estranged himself, it was blamed on his wife. Oldest sons seemed more at risk.
Perhaps, much later, they will find out where we stand. Meanwhile, I think it would do more damage right now.