Juggling The Family Balls

The nuts and bolts of family life are pretty straightforward for a nuclear family of two, like my mom and me. Pizza, Chinese or pasta for dinner? You only have to check on one other person’s appetite. Planning a trip? You only have to compare two schedules, and so on.

Family dynamics are even less complex for a nuclear family of two females. Who is in charge of the TV remote after a long day? Well, it doesn’t really matter because you’re either watching Grey’s Anatomy or Ally McBeal. I can only remember one time, in the late 1980s, when football was broadcasted in our apartment. And that was because my out-of-town uncle was visiting.

Have you ever tried to juggle two balls in one hand? If you haven’t, it’s pretty easy. But try tossing in a third ball, and you’ll be practicing for weeks – maybe months – before you get the hang of it. (I know from experience, having taught myself how to juggle at age 12, as a homework procrastination technique.)

As newly appointed honorary member of another nuclear family, I am transitioning from the familiarity and simplicity of two balls in one hand to the frenzied, never-a-dull-moment velocity of five balls. All at once. Plus they aren’t Neanderthals like my mom was regarding modern day communication (i.e. BBM, email, etc.). So, actually, let me rephrase that: I’m now dealing with the frenzied, never-a-dull-moment velocity of five loquacious balls that would like you to call before getting on an airplane, text when you land, and if you go a couple days without juggling, one of the balls will send you the following text message: “Um, helllllooooo????”

Learning to juggle the family balls has been tricky. (And not just because there are now men involved.)

I boosted my AT&T cell plan after a jaw-dropping triple figure bill several months ago. (I also introduced conference calling.) When we’re all together and not relying on technology to stay in touch, TV time turns into a protracted litigation proceeding about the merits of the particular choices of programming.

The amount of time I devote to brainstorming gift ideas has more than quadrupled – not to mention my capital expenditure in that category. During mealtime, there is typically more than one conversation going on at any given time, and if I’m on the phone with one Rutenberg, it’s fairly common for another one to call, possibly relegating me to a call back queue.

Wait, what? Sharing attention – I’m not used to this!

But I’m also not used to having a father figure sit me down and teach me about retirement planning – or a sister figure show me new eye makeup techniques, or a brother figure console me after a disappointment. This kind of stuff didn’t require much of an adjustment.

To be fair, there are some kinks in our nontraditional family unit. Like when Jamie says to a new acquaintance that she has two older siblings who were born 10 weeks apart.

“Wow,” a flummoxed, drunk guy at a bar once replied,” that must have been a really long labor.”


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