Communication, If we don’t, somebody else will and that could be dangerous!
I am always fascinated by the round shape. I am well rounded, and my husband is an allrounder, the first scribble my son did on the wall was round and when my dog is ecstatic, he goes round and round and to cap it all our home dining table is also round!
Beyond what is served on the table, the mere shape of our table creates a kind of non-hierarchical environment. Obviously to find who is on the head of the table is near impossible in a round table! Nobody is the head of the table or everybody is the head of the table.
Over the last few decades, many things have changed in our home. The TV has changed multiple times, the sofas have been refurbished; rooms have been redone based on the need of the hour; the size of the family kept changing with every birth, death, marriage and relocation … but the round dining table stands regally in the center of our house signifying that somethings do not change at all.
One more thing that never changed in our family is this thing about breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The unwritten understanding is that if you are at home, you are expected to come and sit around the dining table at 8:30 a.m., or you will be dragged to it, irrespective of when you slept the previous night.
We are a bunch of chatterboxes and our best conversation comes up during breakfast around the round dining table! Loud excited screams, bullying, teasing, laughter, exchange of ideas, cerebral arguments, emotional outbursts, planning the day or our next trip or decision about a marriage in the family… everything under the Sun is discussed here – including nappy rashes, cold remedies, what is in the news today, why saving Olive Ridley is important, why we need a puja room, why grand mom feels that way, who in the family is a born entrepreneur or a scientist… the list goes on and on…
With a lot of pride when I spoke about these unplugged conversations around our round dining table at my office to a friend, he commented: “When I go visit relatives, we don’t talk politics. That way we can all still stay friends.” Another friend declared: “Oh, I don’t discuss my religious outlook. That’s personal.”
Chalk off politics and religion. Hm, what’s left to talk about? Sports? No, that gets us into which team is best. So, can’t go there. Films? ‘My hero is the best and all the rest merely come and go’ type of theatrical rants will begin. That leaves the weather. Unless someone brings up climate change. Then that’s off topic too.
Politics or one’s political view is personal. Religious outlook is personal. Choice of entertainment is personal. Sensuality is personal. One’s choice of profession or spouse is personal. There are many more things which are personal – some can be listed, and some cannot be… I totally agree. But if we avoid all the topics that we feel are personal or we are uncomfortable to discuss within our family, then we lose an opportunity to understand what is the thought pattern of others in the family, especially that of our children in their fragile growing up years.
We need to talk.
We need to talk about everything – comfortable and uncomfortable topics.
Let there be no topic that is off topic.
If an environment of open discussion is not provided in our families, if we shut off all discussions that are likely to get unpleasant, we are literally shutting off all channels of communication with our next generation. Without communication we will never be able to understand their thoughts and feelings. Then one day we will be in for surprises and in some instances – shocks! Our very own children will become strangers to us and that will not be palatable or pleasant communication.
Just because these topics are avoided within family discussions, it does not mean that it will not be discussed at all. Just because the cat closes its eyes, the world will not become dark! It will be discussed amongst friends who themselves are likely to lack clarity or worse still – in unsafe online environments with total strangers, who have no direct responsibility towards grooming our children. Please understand, I am not here to paint the world as a dark place… I am part of it and so are you. I am only saying, we need to be aware of the other side too.
So, what should we do?
We need to talk. We need to talk about everything – comfortable and uncomfortable topics. Let there be no topic that is off topic. It is ok if there are disagreements, noise, red face angry expressions… Let families be the safety net in which clinical catharsis happens… It is better to get bruised during net practice than in the match, right? Let there be expressions of love, understandings, thoughts and feelings of all kinds. It matters. Round tables matter. They matter because we are all equal and we all want a seat at the family table. Of course, some ground rules can always be laid…
Family would head the list of boring places without disagreements. Let our homes be a training ground for all of us, on how to discuss without making it a debate, on how to argue cerebrally without getting hurt or hurting others? Right or wrong does not matter here in a family; nobody wins and most importantly nobody loses. In fact, everybody wins as long as we have open communications!
There is a light in all of us. Each one of us has something to contribute. We are here to light each other’s way for when one light goes out, we don’t want them all to go out. One person’s light can bring clarity to a darkened room. One person’s light can help another find theirs.
Let’s begin communication with our families, please…