Enjoying Extended Family

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Written after an exhausting day during Labor Day Weekend 2010…forgot to hit publish…enjoy…

Oh, what a day today was.  Today our cousin and his new wife had a fete to celebrate their recent nuptials.  A fun, laid back Labor Day gathering of family and friends.  The cousins were there, the ones we barely see but every time we do I wonder why we don’t get together more.  They’re not really my husband’s cousins they’re his dad and aunt’s cousins but they’re all incredibly sweet and they all have children, some the same age as my girls.  I come from a small family, me plus three so to be part of a family so much bigger than my own is overwhelming at times.  But overwhelming in such a wonderful way.

I get really emotional about family because I can get lost really easily in thinking about family as just mine and mine alone…me, my hubby, my girls,…forgetting that getting married and now with children I’ve extended my family to mean a whole lot of folks.  It means my daughters have ties and bloodlines and cousins and aunts and uncles and history.  Things I unconsciously wished I had growing up.

I’m caught up a lot these days in soaking up as much time as possible with my little ladies.  Our oldest, especially, because this is such an incredible time in her development.  She repeats everything she hears and not just in a parrot like way but with emotion and knowing what it means.  She is kind and curious and excited and playful and just so many things she has always been but somehow never was in this new and amazing way; I can’t stop watching.  She jokes around.  She giggles.  She plays tricks on us.  She rolls her eyes.  She dances like mad.  She puts her hands on her hips.  She is gentle to her sister and tries to soothe her with soft strokes on her back when she cries.  She pretends to breastfeed her dolls.

Oh and our baby, who was born just yesterday and all of a sudden rolls around and giggles, a hearty wide mouthed giggle.  Baby girl who adores her older sister, who is patient and happy.  I thought time went quickly when big sis was a baby but now with number two, time is moving at breakneck speed and it’s frightening.  These kids are just growing up.

I’m so wrapped up in how much they’re growing  and enjoying it so much, I think I sometimes lose sight of how important it is to share them and let them experience other people, especially their family.  I don’t know if other people are like this or if it’s just me but I really do forget to make that effort.  I’m not holed up at home all the time, though it is one of my favorite past times and luckily both my girls adore being home.  See, the thing is I’ve always been a loner kind of chick.  Ok, not a loner, loner but a social loner.  I love people but I love spending time with myself just as much.  I’ve spent so many years prior to motherhood doing my own thing – lunches on my own, lazy days shopping, random drives, hours spent in bookstore aisles – all on my own.  Alone by choice because I’ve always been so comfortable with myself.  When my daughters were born, it was so exhilarating because it meant I had my own posse to join me in my ventures around town.

But this weekend I realized I have to fight the loner urge sometimes.  I have to make the effort so they can connect to their history, their family.  I know every time they see family won’t be about resurrecting history and that’s ok.  It will be about building relationships, creating memories – a history of their own.  I’m a firm believer that memories, history, connecting with family is how you build roots, how you ground yourself.  It’s building a compass for later in life when things get frazzled. It makes it easier to navigate what life throws at you.

Growing up, I envied people who had larger families.  There was a camaraderie and connection I never felt in my tiny family.  Not that my tiny family wasn’t a joy or that my extended family of insanely caring friends wasn’t enough.  Knowing I can give my daughters the opportunity to experience what I didn’t have means the world to me.  So in my mental, ever evolving life manifesto I’m adding – allow time at least everyday to connect with family – a phone call, lunch, a playdate, going over photo albums…something so they know our family is more than just us.

It’s almost a year later and I remember sitting in front of my screen typing these words. I remember how light and happy my heart was floating that day. It’s reading entries like these that make me happy to keep a blog.That said, I also remember that day and thinking how nice it would be to have  regular family reunion. It’s a massive undertaking but, I think, so well worth it. Have you ever organized a big family reunion? I’d love to know how you organize and manage it all.

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  1. Lovely, lovely post. I know what you mean about getting lost in our own worlds. I love how you wove together your impressions of your elder daughter growing up with the desire to connect all of you with your larger family. Never have orchestrated a large family reunion, but good luck if you decide to undertake it! 🙂

  2. I grew up with a huge extended family and sometimes I did not appreciate it. As soon as I was old enough, I moved away. Now that I have 2 kids, I miss it. I’m sorry that my kids are not growing up surrounded by chaos and love. I am going to follow your lead and make time everyday to connect with extended family so that my kids know they are a part of something much larger than just us.

  3. My family is shrinking…I have very fond memories to aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, second-cousins and sometimes third-cousins, all regularly gathering at my grandparents house, sitting outside on folding chairs talking and talking.

    My daughter doesn’t have that. I wish I could take her back in time to show her.

    Connect your girls to their larger family…they will love you for it.

  4. lovely words. I like you was also a loner, but when my girls came into my life it was like we had our own little world. i do enjoy extended family as my girls get the chance to learn a little of our family history!

  5. I didn’t have a HUGE extended family growing up, so when I married into one, I felt like I was making up for lost time. I even often travel to Mexico alone to spend time with my in-laws because I love them so much and my visits alone are very different from when my husband and I visit together – my visits alone are filled with different kinds of stories, trips to different restaurants than the standard favorites, new adventures, trips to museums and other places I’ve never been. I love, love, love spending time with my husband’s family – my in-laws, the aunts and uncles, all the cousins, and even the “family” members that I can’t figure out exactly how we are related… I hope to someday be able to show our future kids the importance of extended family – right now since we live so far away from Mexico, we do a lot of video Skype chats to make sure we get enough face time when we can’t be there in person. My heart literally aches to see them and phone calls are never enough, so thank goodness for technology to be able to see their faces in real time over the computer! I’m headed for a visit next month alone and I am so thrilled, I have a countdown clock going on my computer.

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