the agony and ecstasy of family

Let me just start by saying that I love my family.  I like and respect my parents, and I get along well with my siblings and their spouses.  There’s only one problem: I was the only child who managed to remain near our parents (a glorious benefit).  My nearest sibling lives 10 hours away by car.  The others are 19 and 23 hours away in different directions.  We’re all in the country, just very spread out.

Combine the two elements, and you have a family that gets along well but has a nearly-impossible time getting together.  Since my siblings all stop in to see my parents periodically, I got lucky and saw everyone once a year or so, but the rest of my siblings were going years between sightings.  My parents decided to intervene to try to improve things: enter the family vacation, all grown up.

Extended family photo

Last year’s sweaty group photo in the aptly-named HOT Springs, Arkansas. We spent most of our time indoors. (Faces obscured to protect privacy. My family obscured just because we don’t look so great.)

The first time we got together as a family, there was only one grandchild, a portable two-month-old.  Originally we were thinking of gathering every three years.  That seemed too long, so we suggested every-other year…but we just couldn’t stay away that long.  This will be our fourth summer get-together in a row, and we have added more children each year; now we’re up to eight-and-a-half.  Obviously, we all look forward to these get-togethers all year long…but at the same time, we dread them.

When we get together, it’s pretty intense.  Because we have lots of small kids (the oldest is six), in order to spend any time together, we have to share housing—that way, the adults can hang out even when little ones are napping or asleep for the evening.  In the past, we have rented large vacation homes, and each family gets one bedroom.  Thus, the entire week of togetherness is spent with no alone time (rough for a family of mostly introverted folks) and some pretty poor sleep as overwhelmed kids wake often at night.

This year, two of the three families were planning on spending some time at my parents’ house, so we’re meeting here, allowing us to divide ourselves between two homes.   This is both lovely and horrible, all at the same time.  Lovely: My family will remain in our own home, in our own beds.  Horrible: The get-together will be happening at my parents’ house, but I will be at my house.  In addition, one or the other of my siblings will be here for almost the entire summer.  That’s a lot of disruption for little ones—and their parents—who like routine and predictability.

Our Summer of Insanity began with the first weeklong drive-through by my brother, his wife, and their kids last week.  Tonight my sister and her girls arrive in town for three weeks; her husband will follow this weekend.  My brother and his family will return two weeks from now and stay for three weeks (and then leave for a week and then be back for one more), and my other brother and his wife will fly in for a long weekend.

How is it that we can so look forward to an event—and also eagerly anticipate its conclusion?  I dearly wish my family lived closer so we could enjoy more day-to-day moments instead of trying to cram a year’s worth of togetherness into one week (or one summer).  I suppose I should just count myself fortunate that I have a family that I like and am able to see annually, since some do not even get that.

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5 thoughts on “the agony and ecstasy of family

  1. Pingback: purposeful parenting « butmostlymommy

  2. Pingback: thicker than water: the summer of insanity update « butmostlymommy

  3. Pingback: the myth of “vacation” with young children « butmostlymommy

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