Breaking Childhood Habits

19 Sep 2018

Last week my mother had a significant birthday.

Mother wanted to spend it with all her children and grandchildren - a party of 9: the guest of honour, my two sisters, four nephews and nieces, my partner and me.

I find a fabulous hotel, near to both an amazing gallery and brilliant sculpture park in a massive country estate. The hotel can put on a murder mystery dinner for the birthday evening. It all sounds perfect.

But then there are my sisters. Let's call them E for eldest and M for middle. M is kind and thoughtful, usually mediating the path between E and me. I rarely see E. More than two hours in E's presence and I am ready to slap her. Of course, I never do hit her, but the desire is most definitely there.

I chose the activities carefully. The sculpture park is vast: E and I can set off in different directions; we need barely see each other. The Murder Mystery is intended to be fun and to give us all roles and activities to stop E and me from descending into the usual arguments.

These couple of days are all about Mum. I worked hard to make sure that everything is perfect for her.

Everyone knows that the Murder Mystery dinner is just a bit of fun, to make the evening more special. E is fussing about needing a script and not having an outfit. She moaned on the phone to M that she's terrified. She isn't terrified; she needs to be different. I had already requested an extended vegetarian menu, so E asked for the gluten free menu. She doesn't keep gluten free elsewhere. Everything is about her. She doesn't realise that this event is all about Mum.

The Big Birthday arrives.

At breakfast E asks me what options we have for the day.

"We go to the sculpture park" I reply firmly.

E still hasn't understood that this is about us all being together, for Mum.

We agree to travel to the estate in two cars. The niece and nephews pile into one: the kids party bus. This leaves the interesting situation that my partner is driving, with Mum riding shotgun and the three sisters in the back seat: just like family holidays 50 years earlier, with my best beloved in Dad's place. M has to sit in the middle: I won't sit by E because she'll pinch me. Yes, in 10 seconds, we had reverted to our primary school ways.

E continued to be a pain at every step of the way, while M and I were firefighting to stop her from sabotaging the event.

Mum had a wonderful trip. Her true desire was for us all to be with her. She got her dream.

How can I break this pattern with my big sister? Have you had similar experiences? Advice and ideas are welcome.


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