Greg and I now have adult kids and as this article and episode is released, holidays are approaching. Top of mind for us is our commitment to the importance of family. There are no cut and dry answers to dealing with families and extended family members. This is especially true as spouses and kids multiply the teetering feeling so many have on balancing a somewhat treacherous tightrope.
Our commitment has not waned for the importance of family in our lives and we have found there are some principles that help us maneuver this coordination. These mindsets and principles are fairly universal and can be applied to other relationships as well, personal and professional. I’ll cover three principles: flexibility and expectations, commitment to the process and creating universal events.
One: Flexibility and Expectations
Gone are the days for us when we cart ourselves off with the kids to spend a full day with each side of the family, my side and Greg’s side. Presently, it looks like each of our sons will have two sets of parents on the spousal side to one set on our side. That’s a lot for them to coordinate, especially when kids arrive and carting screaming kids to another get-together is not top of mind for them. They’d rather say at home.
We are happy that our sons have great memories growing up and understand they need to have the freedom to create their own new memories going forward. Most families are not living in the same town or area like many of our relatives did, which makes coordinating get-togethers more difficult. We have friends who are now moving closer to their kids, but that is not ideal in our situation as our kids are spread around the country.
The flexibility we are now adding to the equation of getting together is for us to go to them on some holidays and rotate our travel. This year, fortunately we are still getting together at our home for Christmas so we feel very lucky for that to happen. It takes us paying to fly a couple members in, but that is our commitment. We remind ourselves that we had extra years with two of our sons who remained single for some years and that makes us grateful for those extra memories.
Two: Commitment to the Process
We have thought about taking off one of these years to celebrate one of the holidays by ourselves in an exotic location. That may happen in the future when faced with a difficult year of coordinating, and our kids may even encourage it! I’m starting to compile a list of those places for when that day comes.
For this year, as it looks like we’ll be adding two more family members as spouses, we started early. Flights fill up fast and there are less options from which to choose these days. I can imagine the scene where miraculously everyone lands in one place. I say miraculously because it may well be a miracle!When our boys left home, there was a feeling that we were done. But that is not the case. Our role is just a bit different. Consistent communication, especially between our sons and their father, is what I encourage most. There are so few men today that have a father they can call up, even just to talk. But keeping that relationship alive opens up talking about relationships, finances or just life in general. We have to remind ourselves that listening and responding when asked is a big part of our watching their journey. Advice may come at the rare moment when asked.
Three: Creating Universal Events
Raising three sons included lots of tape-ball, basketball and food while they were growing up. I had two sisters and I can’t remember a time when we focused on anything but food, crafts, talking and cleanup. Adding daughters-in-law and granddaughters has now brought the delightful addition in our family of craft tables for kids and extra lattés around table conversation. At this point, we aim to create events that everyone will enjoy and not to over-plan. I remember my parents sitting back just to listen to all of us talk and laugh. That is starting to happen for us as we listen and laugh, hard. The stories tend to grow with exaggeration year by year. I’m smiling as I write this.
All of this necessitates us asking what they’d like to do. The year our sons told us they were sick of ham and turkey brought a change to our menu. Both grandparents were making one or the other and seemed to coordinate duplicates year after year. It has cost us more to cook a quality cut of beef, but they look forward to it and that is worth it to us. We welcome them eating our food once in awhile! When they leave, I remind myself the extra food bill was truly worth it.
I also usually provide something gluten-free and plenty of vegetables as well if I’m cooking. Understanding food preferences are important in most every situation. This may be the first year that I order food already cooked for one of the holidays. Who knows, that may be one of our new traditions!
A Father's Wise Words
When Greg was close to turning fifty, his father pulled him aside. He asked him to do him a favor. This wasn’t a common occurrence, especially coming from his dad. He told he and his brother that he’d like them to remain friends.
Greg and his brother looked at each other and agreed to the request. His father is now gone, but through these past years, they talk to each other at least a couple times a month and get together maybe six times a year. It helps that they’re both in Southern California, but it still takes commitment. From my insiders look on their relationship, I see they are truly friends!
I hope that our sons can also remain friends, no matter what part of the country they are in. With enough tools at our fingertips to call, text and see each other virtually, it’s definitely doable. We feel rich at this point in our lives, not because of finances, but because of our commitment to the importance of family. Our family.
We have a couple more articles you may be interested in:Do Adult Children Still Need Parenting or Do They Need a Partner?
Listening and responding when asked is a big part of our watching their journey. Advice may come at the rare moment when asked.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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