Thursday, September 4, 2008

The More We Get Together...

...the happier we'll be?????

I guess it depends on who is getting together, where they are congregating, and for how long.

What do I mean? Please, let me tell you!

As my family has grown over the years, I have seen a shift in my own feelings on this subject. Whether that shift was a natural evolution, a conscious choice, or a little bit of both those things, I am not sure.

What I am sure of is this: I can only congregate with a large group of people for so long, before I lose my grip on my emotions and my sanity.

You would like some specific examples? Geez....

Let me ask you a question: remember family vacations when you were a child? The anticipation, the packing, the day of travel, the arrival? You thought your head would explode with the sheer excitement of it all! You probably have many happy memories of the actual vacation, as well. And, you have relegated the aggravating moments to funny family stories shared at Thanksgiving. A neat little package, tied with a bow.

Here is a follow-up question: in your adulthood, have you ever vacationed with your parents and siblings? Have you taken it a step further and added your own children and spouse? Less excitement, more aggravating moments that are not really referred to during Thanksgiving dinner (unless someone has had too much wine!).

A little-talked-about "trick" to living in a big family (and an even bigger extended family), is taking everyone and everything in small doses. Family weddings are great examples of this (and I'm not just saying this because we have one coming up in my family!). The actual day of the wedding is usually a complete blast; good food, great friends and family members, lots of love. The lead-up to the Big Day is generally not-so-much fun; too many parties, too much money spent, stressed out bridal couple. Have you ever noticed that the more time you spend beforehand with the people who you will be whooping-it-up with at the actual wedding, the less fun you have with them? Do you find yourself shopping for clothes to wear to one or more of the nuptial events, all the time muttering, "I hope no one else in this family gets married for a long time."? It's not that you aren't happy for the bride and groom or that you aren't excited to be a part of it all, it's just that you can't keep up that level of excitement and adrenaline for months on end.

Let's admit it... it takes a lot of patience and energy to deal with the people you love. That's why as wonderful as it is to welcome a new baby into your family, all members are emotionally and physically drained during those first few months. It's not "wrong", it's just the way it is.

As a married couple, my husband and I have learned (the hard way!) that in order to be functioning parents, we have to re-charge ourselves as a couple and as individuals. We have to take 5 to 10 minutes before dinner to go into our room, shut the door (get your mind out of the gutter!) and discuss the days events without little ears listening/little mouths interrupting. As individuals, we have to take 10-20 minutes every few days to go for a solitary walk, soak in a bath, or go for a run. It's not a huge amount of time spent away from the family, it's just enough to breathe and re-group. No need for an annual vacation to the Bahamas, although it would be nice.

As a household, we enjoy spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But there are certain times of the year when all this togetherness makes for crabby kids and grumpy parents. Time for a break! It's really nice to have a few family dinners at our own table. It's even better to take a weekend away together as a family.

The above-mentioned "alone" times allow individuals and families to become grounded again. Grounded in what's important to them, grounded in who they are, grounded in love (for themselves and others). It teaches us all to re-define the reasons that we do get together, in the first place!

So, take it from me: take your necessary medicine and vitamins in small, healthy doses!

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