Friday, August 5, 2011

The Magic

Sorry friends, I promised pictures and more substantive thought on Thursday...but yesterday just didn't allow much, er...any time at the computer. So I'll share a few pics from our recent family reunion today and then I think it would be interesting to discuss extended family relationships and what it takes to promote unity and closeness in our families - little & immediate and large & extended.



Beachy Fun - sea shells and surfing and sand boarding - hooray!

The girls spent an afternoon in Seaside; we couldn't turn down a carousel ride

Rob & Ash after some chilly surfing Kate & Lil skippin' along the beach

Lunch at Bridgewater Bistro - so, so yummy.



That little sticker behind us said "Best Place to Kiss in the Northwest" - we had to try it out. It was a pretty good place to kiss :) (Rob & Ashley, sorry I didn't post your pic...I don't think you would have wanted me to ;)


Wednesday morning we went to see what all the hype's about at VooDoo donuts. There were certainly a lot of flavors - tang, neopolitan, fruit loop-crusted, cap'n crunch covered, memphis mafia (a fritter as big as your head that was COVERED with chocolate and all manner of icing). My review: It was an experience and the donuts were good, but I wouldn't go back. They were more fantastic to look at than they were to eat.


Now, let's chat about families. I would describe my family as extremely close and quite harmonious. Sure, we have our little squabbles and we each deal with challenges and heartaches in our individual lives, but when we get together, we get along swimmingly and we have a lot of fun. A lot! Sometimes I wonder if we're just a fortunate bunch with a lot of lucky chemistry or if our closeness is a result of choices my parents made, a culture they created, deliberate efforts we've made as siblings to grow and stay close to each other. I think maybe it's a bit of both.
We make the effort (and the pilgrimage) to be together for special occasions and events. We call each other on the phone. We celebrate each others victories and mourn each others disappointments. We try to protect each other, build each other up and encourage and counsel each other. One thing I think is super important is to let each person progress and be who they are today without holding them to what/who they were in the past. I know there are things I have made a mindful effort to change about myself and it is so painful to be reminded of those things or have them brought up as fodder in a family setting. It's something we've had to talk about as a family - protecting each other and not digging up old dirt or sharing stories that are hurtful or embarrassing.
Those are just a few things that come to mind when I start dissecting our family dynamics.
What about you and your family?

Do you enjoy time with your extended family? Is it harmonious and enjoyable?
What things does your family do to promote unity and closeness? Or what have you observed in other families?
What could your family do differently to promote those things in greater measure?
What about adding in-laws? How do you make them feel accepted and included? As an in-law yourself, how do you feel with your spouse's family? What makes you feel at ease and welcome? Is it hard to get comfortable and fit in? Why?


Discuss!


Have a great weekend!

5 comments:

Mickie and Matt said...

My family is just the same as yours... of course you said it so much better! It gets even MORE fun when most have kids and cousins can play a ton. I thought I heard that you will have a new niece or nephew soon-ish too, so that will add another REALLY FUN dynamic to your all ready awesome family.

AMEN to not bringing up the past. We too have had to discuss that.

My parents try to do a family vacation ever year where as many if not all of us can come along (financial backing from them helps a ton since most of us are in the young family/college student stage)

We make the best memories and seriously laugh until we cry most times. We like to add Grandparents in that mix too when we can.

As far as in-laws go, we feel the same way my husband and I, about both sides. Both are our bothers and sisters. We love all our in-laws and we all get along well. We do have different personalities that took some getting used to but it's no issue now. I do struggle finding ways to include my F.I.L, my M.I.L. died about a year before I met my husband and my F.I.L. lives far away... I am sure I am not the only one with this problem. How can I make him feel more loved and included when we see each other maybe every 2 years? How can I help my kids know who he is? Any thoughts?

Good post Emily! I loved seeing pictures of your family :)

Anonymous said...

Oh! I wish I could say my (husband's) extended family is cool and fun to hang out with. :(

Since I'm an only kid, his siblings and spouses are the only extended family we hang out with. Things are stilted and awkward. We don't have a lot in common with them. It's not much fun to go there each year for our family vacation - so now, my challenge is to help my husband realize it's time to start having family vacations with our children building our immediate family memories and break away from the extended family. Please?!

I'd much rather hang with good friends - at least we have something in common and can laugh and have fun. Not possible with DH's family. I suppose it's helping me build character, right?

Susan said...

Like "Anonymous," in-law family relationships is a topic that can be very difficult for me. My in-laws are wonderful people. They are kind and generous. That said, I've struggled over the past decade+ to feel at ease with them and fully enjoy my time with them. It's funny because I feel like I can connect with almost everyone I meet and I love being around people, but there always seems to be a barrier with my in-laws. I have spent years thinking, praying and writing in my journal about developing stronger ties with them. To be clear, we don't ever argue or anything -- there just isn't much closeness or level of comfort. I sort of dread family vacations and visits (great attitude, right?). Much of this has to do with very different communication styles (my natal family is boisterous, debates, loves working/cooking together, talks constantly by phone and my in-laws are much more tacit, politically/socially conservative and reserved). I'm not sure how to "be myself," have a sense of humor, make decisions, tell a funny story, make crazy food, express some political or social beliefs, etc. Again, we often have lovely conversations and they are wonderful grandparents, but it's still a struggle. When I write this, I sound ungrateful and probably contradictory, so I'm hoping that others can perhaps add some insights.

Part of me wonders if this is just how our relationship will be, and that's ok. In addition, I am not close with my husband's sibilings. We live far from them, and when we visit their region each year, we feel like our efforts to get together and talk and rarely reciprocated. We travel literally from coast to coast every winter and trying to pin them down to actually get together can be quite frustrating. My husband loves his parents (of course!) and totally enjoys being with them, so my reticense is hard for him to understand. He has a similar relationship with his siblings as I do (friendly, but not close, and attempts to be closer are often not reciprocated).

Anyway, I'm very interested in reading about others' expereinces in developing healthy and happy extended family relationships, and I'm happy to hear that many of you have wonderful ties naturally (not that it doesn't take effort)!

Jenny said...

Family is hard. My family is hard and my in-laws are hard.

I find myself unable to succinctly state what it is that makes family such a challenge, but I firmly believe that my family (and my in-laws) were chosen for me for a reason and it's my job to learn what each person offers me. And that is so much easier said than done...

Things always seem easier if my husband and I discuss our expectations (e.g. how long we plan on staying, who we drive with, does the situation accommodate my desire to bring a book, etc.) before any family event. That might seem dumb, but it's much better than getting upset for spending an hour too long at dinner when my husband thinks we left an hour too early.

I appreciate your key insight about letting your family be who they are now, not who they once were.

I wish more people would weigh in on this! I'd love to read more about this topic from other readers.

Susan said...

Jenny, I wholeheartedly agree with your advice about being mindful and prepared (especially concerning expectations) when extended family gets together. Setting parameters and having realistic expectations (for both myself and others) has been very, very helpful as well.

For me, having kids who adore their cousins has also helped. Even if I can't really "connect" with my husband's family individually, I love their kids so much and it provides some common ground (although don't get me started on trying to navigate differing parenting and discipline styles when we're together -- that gets very sticky!).