Miss Debrett on... Family Life
As an adult you will experience several
different families: your original family
(which you delude yourself into
thinking you have grown up and
left); your own family (in which
you attempt to redress and
re-write all the wrongs you have
already endured); and your family
in-law (which you look on with
anthropological interest and
In fact, family life seems to
expand and grow more complex
and compelling as you get older, rather than dwindling into irrelevance. It is very hard to divest yourself of family, and - if you want to do so - you must be prepared for a huge amount of guilt and emotional fall-out.
The main thing to remember about families is that the dynamics and shared experience that create them are absolutely unique. Even if you had an immensely happy childhood, you will only be able to recreate aspects of it when you have your own children. Your in-laws will bring an entirely different familial atmosphere, and some of their habits and customs will seem baffling and impenetrable.
Survive multiple family life by cultivating an air of open-minded and tolerant curiosity. Never make the mistake of fetishising your own family life, or assuming that your family's way of doing things is the only way. When you've grown up, don't become fixated on your own childhood, and expect everything to remain the same. Always expect the unexpected; people will move on, old habits will die, new homes will be created, there will be new passions, interests and tragedies.
Circumstances can change, but the personnel will remain the same. They're your family and you can't change that.
Miss Debrett's Top Tips
- Survive multiple families by cultivating an air of open-minded tolerance.
- Never make the mistake of fetishising your own family, and insisting that they have a monopoly on getting it right.
- Be prepared for change: kids grow up, families break apart and re-form in different constellations, much-loved homes are sold. Families are always dynamic entities.