How can you give the gift of life, love and understanding?

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

A wise person once said, “Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding is the third.”

I am not one of the people who does Black Friday, but I certainly am thinking about Christmas gifts. When we had our 4 sons, within 5 ½ years, my husband and I had to make decisions about the holiday activities and gift giving.

I remember running from place to place trying to make sure no one was offended because we didn’t come for a family event. I also remember a time when we had three in diapers and it literally took half an hour to get them all in snowsuits and into the car.

At that time, I also worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning because I was a church organist, which meant doing all of this in the midst of 6 services between 4 pm on Christmas Eve and noon on Christmas Morning. The greatest Christmas gift for me was a nap on Christmas afternoon when the boys were asleep.

After a few years of this my husband and I decided to re-evaluate. Not because we didn’t like seeing our families. We enjoyed our times with them and the boys had fun with their cousins and grandparents. There was always good food to eat good conversation and laughter. We exchanged gifts and were lucky enough to have family events that didn’t turn into regrettable stories that would find a not-so-glorious place in the family history.

However, we decided that we needed to start our own family traditions, as well as integrate our family with siblings and multiple sets of in-laws. In some ways, it would have been really nice to have Excel spreadsheet so we could have plotted it all out. The reality is, that even if we could have put it all on a nice neat spreadsheet, it would not have been much help because growing and integrating a family can sometimes be a bumpy road.

Generations worked really hard to give us all space where we can set familiar boundaries. It took lots of love and understanding to let their adult children do something different. I know there was sadness and even a little hurt because things were changing. It took willingness on the part of all generations to extend love and generous understanding. It took sometimes being silent when something harsh might have been said. It took the courage to apologize and forgive so that important relationships were restored or smoothed.

When I look back at my expanding families now (another grandson on the way), I see the process continuing. One of the things I see is that the gifts of life, love and understanding are gifts we are entrusted with, passing on to our expanding family.  Ultimately, these truly are the best gifts we can give each other and the world around us, not only in the holiday season, but all year.

If you or your family are experiencing some bumps or stressed relationships at this time, consider giving us a call at Aurora Family Service. You might be the one to start the gift giving process of love, understanding, healing and joy.

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us on Facebook, or call 1-414-342-4560

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