functional family

Every other week I sit in a surprisingly uncomfortable chair in my therapist’s office.

Rarely do I feel like going.  If I am crabby and busy I think, “man, I don’t want to waste and hour sitting in that chair just talking,” and if I am having a great day I think, “I don’t want to go and have a big old Debbie Downer discussion.”

The weird thing is that I never walk away thinking, “see? Waste of time.”

A couple weeks ago we were talking about family.  My family and Cort’s family and how we communicate with our families.  I told Dr. Melissa,

“I never have to wonder if someone in my family is mad at me or if there is an issue or what.  If someone asks like an ass, the other people tell that person.  There is no silent treatment or passive aggressive jabs.”

Then I told her about something super disappointing my mom shared with me recently.  After my mom had told me, she asked me if I was mad at her and I said yes.

I festered about it for a few hours, then started to cry.

Eventually I called my mom and said, “I’m not mad at you guys, mom.  I’m just super disappointed.”  We talked about it for a bit and I told her I wasn’t going to dwell on it. I just needed to tell her that it bothered and disappointed me.

My mom agreed and we were Ok.

I told all of this to Dr. Melissa.

She looked at me for a minute and then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“You know, Katie, many many people would not be able to talk about that as openly as you did with your mom.  And they most certainly wouldn’t be able to stay disappointed, but let the anger go.”

I was sort of baffled.

“Really,” I responded,  “because in the entirety of life, it’s not that big of a deal.  It’s not worth losing my mom and dad over or anything.  It sucks.  It’s really sad and disappointing…and I’ll probably be disappointed about it for a LONG time…but it’s not worth having a feud over or anything.”

“That’s the thing,” she told me.  “This is exactly the kind of thing most families do have feuds and harboring resentments about.  It’s amazing that you have this kind of communication with your family.”

I have been thinking about that conversation for the past two weeks.

This past week, Eddie has been very sick.  Cort and I each took two days off from work to stay home with him, but both of us really needed to be at work on Friday.

Thursday night my mom, knowing about our struggles, called and said that my dad had Friday off and would be cool with hanging out with Eddie in the morning.  Then she would take the afternoon off from work, and stay with him.

It was a lifesaver.

She didn’t do it because she felt guilty for disappointing me weeks ago.  She did it because this is what our family does for each other.

I can’t imagine holding anything against my parents or my brothers.

I tried to think of a time before this that anyone did something that was truly disappointing or that angered me that I didn’t say something.  I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even think of something that I would have gotten mad about…other than crap we did/said to each other when we were kids.  And even then we just yelled at each other and got over it.

What’s funny is back when I was in high school, friends of mine and friends of my brother, Chris would come over for dinner and refer to our family dinners as “having dinner with the Yelling Match.”

Everyone in my family talks over everyone else.  There are only five of us (parents, me, my two younger brothers), but it gets loud.  Then the talking over turns to disagreeing about topics or calling each other names.  Things get louder and louder.  My parents try to intervene, but it never works.

By the end of the meal, everyone leaves full and happy.

Yelling Match Completed.

I know my parents used to worry about how much my brothers and I argued and name-called.  I think they still worry sometimes since we are all adults (34, 32, & 27) and maybe shouldn’t be calling each other “buttface” at the dinner table.

But we all have a close, happy relationship.  We love doing stuff together and spending time together.

We miss each other and give our mom grief when we haven’t had a Sunday dinner together in a while.

We enjoy each other’s company even when we disagree.

If someone falls short of someone else’s expectations they are told, but a real beef is never held onto for long.  Oh we don’t let the person forget about it, but we don’t seriously harbor ill-feelings toward each other.

We let it go.

Apparently this is not something all families do.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this:

Hey mom and dad, you done good.  All those times you worried about us being so mean…at least we were being mean and not holding it in.  Because had we held it in, we wouldn’t be able to be the communicators we are now.  And we wouldn’t want to come over and have you feed us.  And we wouldn’t want to spend a week all together in the summer at the cottage.

Yup, my family lets me down sometimes, but rather than shoving that down into my heart and muttering, “that’s ok.”  We say our feelings and we let it go.

I’m so thankful for this.

Also, mom? Really. I’m not mad.


You have until Friday to treat yourself to some great skin care products and/or enter to win some!

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. You guys are truly lucky, being so open with your communication.
    Notsomuch on our end. We let things fester, boil over, fight about it, and for the most part, let it go. But it’s a process, it’s painful, and sometimes, it’s just long drawn out and I hate getting involved.
    I hope I can have the kind of relationship you have with your parents, with my boys.

  2. This is the kind of relationship that I want my kids to have with me. I don’t want them to hold things in or let it fester. I want them to be able to be open with me and with each other about stuff.

    My family is not like this. At all. And it has made it so hard as I became an adult to learn how to express my feelings. Even today I am unable to talk to my mom about things that bother me. And that hurts. Badly.

  3. love the way you wrote this. and I’m thinking I’m pretty darn fortunate, as my family is the same way. wonderful thing to have – a functional family 🙂 *hugs*

  4. Okay, I LOVE that photo at the end.
    I think this depends on the family. For some, the yelling makes things worse and creates new resentments, and for others, like yours, it gets everything out and everyone lets it go. We don’t yell in our home because our experience growing up with yelling was not like yours. Quiet talking and restraint of pen and tongue would’ve gone a LONG way back then so that’s what we practice today.
    What I love about life is that our experiences shape who we are, and if we learn to take the good, of which my childhood had much, and grow from the crap, we are all the better. xo

  5. Dude,

    I communicate poorly. My family is absolute passive-
    aggressive, shove issues into our back pockets til they explode in someone’s face. Therefore, I’m jealous that you communicate so well. If I told someone in my family that I was mad at them, they wouldn’t talk to me for a while…

  6. Yeah my family dynamic is anything but that. Our mom has been gone over a year and I still hear how I was the favorite and how mom did for me. Might I point out I was 11 years younger than the next 2 oldest *yes twins*. Might I also point out that my dad walked out when I was 10 and my mom and I had to sell our house and all of our furniture and move together out of state into a 3 bdr trailer with some friends who already had 3 people living there? But I had it so good. There are days I dread even talking to them. Because I will spend my life, as my mom called it before her death, being their kicking post about their life tragedies that are happening even now. It will always become my fault, period.

  7. I did not learn my communication from my parents. I actually talk to my kids (my dad, as I got older, communicated better). I do love that you called your mom back to clarify your feelings. I will admit that with my sisters and my dad I don’t harbor resentment or anger. With my mom, I do. I am working, oh how I’m working, to keep that from being a pattern w/my girls.

  8. This is awesome. I would love to have that kind of relationship with my family. You are blessed (and I am jealous ;)).

  9. Our family is so far from that. It’s borderline dysfunctional and “Showing up on Jerry Springer”…which would explain a lot of things.
    I’m glad that you have such an amazing family. Hug them lots.
    PS. I totally wrote a post on passive aggressivness…

  10. What a sweet family! The family I grew up in was pretty idealistic, but my husband’s not so much, so it’s a strange blend to create our own family for our son. Family dynamics are often so complicated. I’m glad you are able to see the beauty in yours.

  11. I love the photo at the end.

    Family matters are so hard. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff with my sister right now (what else is new) and I think therapy would help us immensely.


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