This past December, we spent New Year's Eve with my husband's family -something that hadn't happened in 10 years. This time, it was my turn to watch from the sidelines. For a change, I wasn't in charge of the big decisions or of planning the whole affair. Refreshing!
After so long, it was lovely to see the four cousins interacting, the two siblings catching up on mundane matters, a grandfather surrounded by his grandchildren and his grown-up kids.
During this week-long reunion, I had the chance to confirm first-hand a couple of well-known truths:
The dilemma. When family members get together after a long time, everyone wants to be in their best behavior. Therefore, it's unavoidable to end up doing things that nobody really wanted to do just because we assumed that that was what another person wanted. One late evening, my father-in-law was tired, his wife too, (we all were, really), and wanted to go straight to our Airbnb. However, after a short exchange, they decided that his daughter would be disappointed if we didn't stop by her house to say good-night before retiring for the night. My sister-in-law, on the other hand, looked like she would have preferred we had called her to say good-night instead of showing up at her house at 10:00 pm.
Let's agree on something, please! What happens when you sit 12 people at the table with the intent of making plans for the next day? Arguments, of course. Disagreements were magnified among this bunch due to the differences in personalities and ages (18 to 80.) Before even leaving my house, I had decided to be a quiet spectator and refrain from volunteering opinions unless expressly asked. Accordingly, I sat back and listened with amusement. An hour later, no viable plan had formed. Shocking! It was late, and everyone retreated to their lodgings with the hope that the morning would bring exciting ideas that made everyone happy. It's worth noting that the morning in question was the last of the year. In the end, and to everybody's content, we split into groups that catered to different interests. It worked out fine, and everyone ended 2019 with the satisfaction of having done what they wanted on that last day of the year. Democracy at it's best!
Do you remember when...? Reminiscing is the preferred thing to do when family members who haven't seen each other in years gather around the kitchen table. This crowd spent hours recalling stuff that happened years and years ago. I must admit that generally, that's the best part of a family reunion. I enjoyed listening to the many stories they retold; the laughs that ensue after most of those stories were wonderfully contagious!
Being a spectator of the family dynamic was fascinating. This is a loving family with very different personalities who play very different roles in life. As in any other family, there are introverts, extroverts, loud personalities, and quiet ones. This is the first time I have consciously decided to be the proverbial fly on the wall and discovered that it's a fascinating place to be. Maybe from now on, I'll be an observer rather than a participant. I find this role much more fun. Don't tell my family, please!
Overall, family gatherings are fun and even exciting. They have the ups and downs we've all come to expect, but as time passes, even the downs are remembered fondly by all. Make sure to have an open mind, though. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to visit relatives who live far from us and choose not to go for different reasons. We come up with multiple excuses: The trip is too long for small children, we don't want to leave our dogs behind for that long, it's too expensive, or airports are a nuisance -given, they are. The bottom line is that it's a lot easier to spend the holidays closer to home than go through the hassle of a road trip or air travel. We're lazy. Traveling is indeed a hassle, no doubt, but it's also a source of great memories that last forever. Making the financial and time effort to visit with our relatives is a way to appreciate what we have and, in a way, it keeps us grounded. Nothing replaces a hug from grandma or playing catch with grandpa in the backyard.
In spite of our busy lives, making time to visit relatives must be a consideration when planning our vacations. If we're fortunate enough to have a family we can visit, we should take advantage of every opportunity we have. In the long run, we won't regret having made the time to visit our parents and grandparents, cousins and aunts, uncles, and siblings. Yet, we'll surely regret not having done so when we had the chance. And if you don't believe me, ask Clark Griswold!
Did you visit with your family during the holidays? Do you make the time to spend important holidays with them? Share your experience below; I would love to read about it!