We just spent a week with our grown children and their families. It doesn’t happen often (10 years ago was the last time) that everyone can congregate at the same place at the same time. It was a special week. For six months we all looked forward to sun and sand and waves and lounging.
Like many families, we have had our ups and downs. Four boys and one girl make for lots of history and memories. Now that everyone is over 30 and settled into their own lives, spread apart by miles, it was great fun to be together. Cousins and in-laws got to know one another better, and we all built new memories.
Going into the week, I prepared by making some intentional decisions about how I would approach my offspring who are now all grown up as their own persons.
They would most likely expect me to come with plans and agendas and attempts to control, but at this point, it is not needed… and rarely works. I really wanted the week to be memorable in a pleasant way, so some personal decisions were in order.
Among the nine adults who were along, we had a cop, a doctor, two nurses, an accomplished academic in a leadership role, a pastor who manages 1000 volunteers at once, a medical office manager and a competent entrepreneur who is disciplined and successful.
They did not need me to tell them what time to eat or to show up at the beach or to use more sunscreen or even to relax. They are all quite capable.
When son #2 came up with the idea and asked us if we could help make it happen, he had it arranged within a week. He had everyone on board, got agreement on the dates, and reserved the condos. That show of solidarity was satisfying. No need for me to try to organize.
With four types of adult relationships and three families with kids, there would be plenty of opportunities to feel the need to suggest or notice. But I would not. I would let them all live their lives, knowing that they each pretty much know what I think, anyway.
One day I never made it to the beach where everyone else was. Another day, I went shopping at some stores that are not in my town. There was also a day when I even took a nap! It was wonderful. No one was dependent on my presence, and as it turned out, I was not the only one who occasionally went their own way.
Family get-togethers are a great opportunity for grandkids to spend quality time with their grandparents. But I went with no expectations that they all would want to hang with me all the time.
They are still pretty young (age 8 and under), so parents reign supreme. Two of them live far away from us, so the little guy (20 months), especially, needed to be won over before there was much connection. We had a great evening with them all while their parents all went out to eat. It was successful (and a bit chaotic).
My husband and I speak with our kids often. Thanks to technology, even the far away ones are easy to keep up with. But having sisters-in-laws talking to one another and having the one brother-in-law connecting with the brothers was a rare opportunity. Not to mention having all the siblings together.
One night, all the women went out to eat and left the kids at home with the dads. It was the first time ever for this group and it was so fun.
We laughed, ate great food, and even found where we had parked the car after wandering around trying to find a place that would accommodate the five of us.
I applauded the tea time with oldest son and only son-in-law. The last night, when son #4 was responsible for the meal and asked me to help with my special potato salad, I was happy to make everyone’s favorite from growing up.
When I refer to our ups and downs, some of them were significant. Substance abuse damages relationships, and we have had some sorrowful experiences with addiction in our family. When there are marriages, there are some hurdles to get over, issues to work through. When a husband is away in the military for 18 months, some of it in Iraq, stress is added.
The simple fact that our little family of seven had come to a point where we all wanted to be together for a week was a reason for deep gratitude and wonder.
Times with family can be stressful (to say the least). But with some planning and pre-thought, I helped make our first time all together in 10 years work.
Have you ever organized a family reunion? Have you ever participated in a family reunion that someone else planned? What worked for your reunion? Please share your experiences below!