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Day 217: The Emotional Intelligence of Family

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together”  ~Erma Bombeck

Today I interviewed my kids on my radio show. I asked them how it was for them to have a mother who makes love products and calls herself a loveologist. I asked them their best advice about relationships in families. I asked them how they felt about the boundaries that I crossed every time they came home sad and troubled and I forced them to talk about what happened. I asked them whether and how they felt that all the processing of their feelings impacted their lives today.

We all raise our families with the best intentions and the worst, or at least the most challenging attributes we possess. For me, the issue of boundaries played heavily on both fronts. In my own childhood, privacy was a punishment in an already isolating family structure. I never knew what was really lurking behind someone else’s silence, and often it was untapped rage. Raising my own children, I sacrificed their need for privacy for my belief in the emotional health of disclosure.

Ever the emotional barometer in life, I always knew when something was amiss for my kids and never gave them a choice about sharing what was going on. Sibling arguments provided the daily practice of  learning to express and listen. No one ever had the choice to go away angry. The conversation wasn’t over until the relationship won out over the differences. The only thing that I was ever 100% consistent with was that my children always had to love each other.

Today, I felt proud as I listened to them articulate their ability to know how they feel and communicate about it. They were generous in their answers and with each other. They were able to talk as freely about their discomfort about my work choice in middle school as they were their anger at my disrespect for their privacy. They each had their own story about how the emotional intelligence that I chose above all else has shaped them and their relationships.

Winston Churchill  once wrote: “There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.” I know this is not true of all families, and maybe not even most, but when we get it to work, learning to be related and discovering the common thread that binds us is what life is all about.