Family of screamers no less loving than others
By Jim DeBrosse
Psssst. Reader, come a little closer. Right there. Good. Now I have a secret to share with you about my family. We're S-C-R-E-A-M-E-R-S!!!
If you happen to belong to a family where people never raise their voices and never, ever say a harsh word to each other, I'm happy for you. But you'll have a hard time relating to this column, because I am here to defend SCREAMING as a normal part of family functioning -- if that, in fact, is your family's style of communication.
This became apparent to me last week while watching a DVD with a family of nonscreamers. In the midst of the movie, during a key plot twist, the DVD began to skip through scenes. Here is how this non-screaming family reacted.
Mom: "Dear, why don't you rewind and then fast forward."
First Daughter: "I'm not sure I know how."
Second Daughter: "Here. I know. Let me help."
First Daughter: "Thanks."
Now here's how my family would have reacted to the same situation.
All Three Children At Once: WHAT THE...!... OHMYGOD!... I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!... RIGHT WHEN HE WAS GOING TO SHOOT THE GUY!... I HATE LIBRARY DVDS!... IT'S NOT A LIBRARY DVD, YOU IDIOT!... IT IS, TOO, ISN'T IT, DAD?!
Dad: QUIET! WHO HAS THE REMOTE?!
Older Daughter: I DON'T! (YOUNGER SISTER)?
Younger Daughter: DON'T LOOK AT ME! (BROTHER) TOOK IT. (BROTHER)?
Dad: DO YOU HAVE THE REMOTE?
Son: YEAH. SO WHAT!?
Dad: DON'T YOU DARE TALK TO ME LIKE THAT, YOUNG MAN!
Son: TALK LIKE WHAT? YOU'RE THE ONE SCREAMING!
I'm not quite sure where our disposition toward screaming came from, since we are of Northern European origin where our ancestors were more likely to start land wars than raise their voices. Still, my father was a consummate screamer. Just ask my oldest sister, who used to run around the house when we were kids slamming windows shut so the neighbors wouldn't hear.
My mother, sainted woman that she was, never raised her voice. She reacted to the rest of us screaming with long-suffering looks that made us all feel guilty, but none the quieter.
Has screaming made us a less loving family? I would argue no. Maybe a little more tone deaf and hoarse at times, but not less close. When the screaming is over, the hurt is forgotten. We don't hold grudges in our family, perhaps because we all get it out in our screaming.
My dear friends, Jim and Jan Rakestraw, have urged me to use humor to defuse those moments when our family is likely to scream. I tried that not long ago. When all my kids started screaming at once, I began howling like a wolf in parody. It did, in fact, work. The kids stopped screaming and started laughing.
Older Daughter: QUIT LAUGHING, EVERYBODY! I CAN'T HEAR THE TV!
Son (in lilting parody): QUIT LAUGHING! NERD-GIRL CAN'T HEAR THE TV!
Younger Daughter: QUIET! IT'S THE BEST PART!
Older Daughter: YOU, TOO, (YOUNGER SISTER)! SHUT UP!
Younger Daughter: I AM BEING QUIET!
To which I sighed and added my best long-suffering look.
Copyright, 2006, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.
DATE: July 21, 2006
PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)