Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that generally means time for families to gather. This makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a family without some level of family craziness? I say no. The question is whether or not you can get a good laugh from your family craziness, and maintain a sense of perspective. Let me use my own family to demonstrate.

I have an older sister and a younger sister. As kids, we competed for our parents’ attention and it was ugly at times. Rarely physical, we preferred words that felt like a punch. The older we got, thankfully, the more we all matured. But the old dynamics are always lingering. For example, my parents have large framed photos of each of us with our spouse taken on our wedding day and they hang vertically on a wall in their home. That’s right, vertically! Why the emphasis on vertical? Because one of the photos has to be on top of the others, a place of seemingly greater love and affection from mom and dad for sure!

We actually have a pretty good laugh when we are all visiting, and mom and dad play along by rotating the photos around over time, giving one of us a reason to crow from high above the other two. The same hilarity holds true for the infamous Savlov Family Twisted Soup Ladle Saga.

When we were kids something happened at the dinner table that triggered my dad into an angry state – quite possibly having something to do with me. He turned reddish-purple, the muscles in his face bulged, and he grabbed a soup ladle that happened to be within reach and twisted it into a pretzel. Things became silent; we untwisted the ladle and served the soup. Forty years later, we use that ladle every year when we all get together and hold it up for all to see. Then we launch into a recounting of the Top Ten Savlov Family Crazy Moments, laughing until we can hardly breathe. Dad laughs as hard as any of us when we display the infamous ladle.

We have found a way to appreciate our family “craziness,” acknowledging the reality of less-than-ideal moments while moving on with a strong sense of family connection and a dose of humor that brings us closer.

What is the lesson?
Enterprising Families: Take some time out to rummage through the family history and have a good laugh as you all cherish the craziness you have been through together. The perspective will pay dividends in doses of family harmony. You’ll be surprised how the passage of time softens the anger and actually gives everyone a chance to laugh together.

Advisors to Enterprising Families: If you are close enough with your clients so they tell these stories in front of you, you should feel honored and laugh along – though not too loudly or you may become the common enemy and find yourself in a story to be told several years in the future. Recognize that while you are being allowed into the family’s “inner sanctum,” that doesn’t give you the right to bring up these stories on your own. It’s great to be included, but you still are an outsider; tread lightly.