When you're a kid, whatever situation you grow up in - no matter how strange - you will consider it normal. It's not until you hang around your other friends' families that some things start to appear odd.
Then when you grow up and get married and become part of another family, the true freakshow that was your life is made clear.
It wasn't until I hung around Matt's family that I realized it wasn't normal to have screaming matches at the dinner table. No one in the Braun household ever even raised their voices, let alone hurled spoonfuls of mashed potatoes or small baked goods. My brother had an especially sneaky trick of chewing off pellet-sized chunks of raw carrot and squeezing them between his thumb and finger so they'd shoot into my milk with a quiet plop. He'd do this when no one was looking so that when I got to the bottom of my milk glass I'd almost choke on dozen carrot butts that were lurking there.
Then we would get yelled at for messing around. It was rare to make it through a meal without the threat of bodily harm.
Mainly, dinner time would go like this...
Mom: Eat it!
Me: You know I don't like cooked vegetables. Why can't I have them raw?
Mom: I'm not a short-order cook!
Me (having no idea what that meant): Cauliflower with cheese is gross.
Kelly (whining): I don't like it either. I'm full!
Kelly wouldn't eat ANYTHING. Unless it was chicken fingers or cereal. One Christmas my mom wrapped up a box of Kix for her stocking. As a joke.
It was her favorite present.
Mom: Eat it! I spent all day making dinner.
Jimmy: Why didn't you order pizza? It only takes 15 minutes.
Me (making gagging noises): It looks like brains. Cheese-covered brains.
Kelly (crying): It smells bad.
All the while this is happening, my dad is trying to ignore us, trying to eat his dinner. Trying. He could only do it for so long.
Mom: Just shut up. Quit your bellyaching and eat it! Jim!
Dad (not looking up): Listen to your mother.
Me: Mine's cold.
Mom: Well, whose fault is that?
It would keep going on like this, crying and moaning, until our dad threatened, "I'm going to give you something to cry about if you don't knock it off!"
So I grew up thinking that this is what happens. This is NORMAL dinner conversation.
When my parents came to visit last weekend, it was no exception. But instead of yelling about not eating my dinner (I don't have that problem anymore) we sit and yell about politics. Because my dad is outnumbered in this discussion by 3-to-1, he compensates by getting louder. And because Matt is still not used to this kind of behavior he usually gets up quietly, does the dishes, and then wanders outside. Last Saturday night he was out in the backyard, burning stuff in the fire pit while we sat inside screeching like a bunch of howler monkeys on crack. My mom always says something like, "My! It's so nice to have a husband who jumps up to do the dishes like that."
I don't have the heart to tell her it's because he thinks we're a bunch of insane jackasses.
Oh, I guess I just did.