Understanding How Families Work…

Sunday we had a family picnic.  My siblings were there.

Some of our kids were there….Of the 22 grandchildren ten were there.  Five were mine.

Some of their grand kids were there. I don’t have grand kids yet so none were mine.

We all met up with our other cousins.  By far, my dad’s family is the most represented family there.

We have cousins, nieces and nephews who never come.  I am always curious…what happens that makes some come?  What makes it that some never come?

As I was talking to one of my adult cousins who I typically see once a year, I asked him how his kids were and what they were up to.  He talked about them.  They lived far away…I asked if he saw them very often and he said…”No.  We raised our kids to be independent”.

For some reason that comment hit me funny.  Our five kids are all very independent….but we see them often.  I don’t think any of them would move more than three hours away let alone 8-10 or more hours away.

What makes some of my cousins never come to the picnic?  What makes some of nieces and nephews stay away?

I’d honestly love some advice on this because I honestly want my family, especially my own kids, to want to stay close.  Any suggestions??

P.S.  Did you get a chance to check out ConAgra Foods’ great site, The Dish?

21 thoughts on “Understanding How Families Work…”

  1. I wonder the same thing about class reunions. Why do some classmates come and some never have? Why do the ones that live the furthest away come in a greater percentage than those that live close? At least I know about the reunions months in advance and can plan summer vacations around them.

    As to family reunions, ours are announced on Monday or Tuesday for the next Saturday and my family of 4 lives 5 hours away that includes a 2 hour ($500. per ticket) plane ride and a 3 hour drive. My bother has gone to a few (he lives about an hour away) and he said he sees it as an excuse for our cousins, spouses, and their kids (only 1 aged aunt is still living) to watch sports and get drunk. Not my thing.

    Maybe there is a sociologist or some such person out there that can really answer the question. :)

  2. Oh, one more thing. We raised our kids to be independent too. But to us that meant “active, productive, self-supporting members of society.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t all want to see each other as often as possible. To see my kids I have to take a 2 hour plane ride, long airport layover, then a 2 1/2 hour plane ride. I get to see them 1-4 times per year, depending ya know. But the DD and I talk numerous via phone times each week and the DS, well less often. He’s more into text messages which I don’t care for. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when the DGK come but I WILL be seeing them MUCH MORE OFTEN, someway, somehow!

  3. Boy, is that a million dollar question. Here’s my stab at it…because we don’t live in the same towns/areas we form bonds with people who are not related and they become family. Therefore, family becomes strangers…oh we know bits and pieces from the grape vine but ” because life is busy” no one makes time to stay close. People don’t know what a gift they have until it’s gone

  4. i’ve found feeding them works. All my kids and grandkids come to my house every Sunday for dinner. My kids all remember going to my mother’s every Sunday and I remember going to my grandma’s every Sunday. Tradition! A 9 year old grandson asked me where will he eat Sunday dinner when I “pass”. Hey kid, let’s not worry about that for awhile yet.

  5. My three kids were raised to be independent too. But they all live within 2 miles of me. The farthest is 2 miles & closes is 1-1/2 miles. My husband and I never told them we wanted them to live close to us even though we are glad they are. They chose to be. They knew they had our unconditional love and we would always be there for them. I see them alot and we are always together for holidays here at my house. I feel very blessed I have my kids & grandkids so close as I know others do not.

  6. Sometimes adult children have to move far away for a job and can’t afford to come home more than once a year, if that. In that short visit, they try to see everyone and we might get them for a day. We skype and occasionally talk on the phone but I see us growing further and further apart.

    I think some people are more sentimental than others, some people place a greater value on relationships too. As a previous commenter said, we no longer have to depend on family and form relationships with others who become our family. Sometimes our own family hurts and rejects us or we don’t feel accepted which may or may not be justified. Lots of reasons.

  7. I agree with the food thing :)

    I think it has to do with how our family was raised. A lot of teenagers have their own computers with an Internet connection and a television in their bedrooms. They never have to fight for the remote or family computer. Conflict creates cohesiveness! Some families view success differently. They are proud of their children who live far away and have prestigious jobs. That’s okay, but we were always told you wouldn’t visit if our state didn’t touch Iowa. :)

  8. When I was growing up, there was a family down the street with 4 kids. They had a lot of forced family time together. Almost every week in the summer, the whole family had to go out on their boat, even if they didn’t really like going out on the boat. Even if the teenagers in the family would have rather something else. If one child had a baseball game, all the kids in the family had to go and watch, whether they wanted to or not. The four kids grew up, got married,moved away and now the parents rarely see their kids or their grandkids.

    There were 8 kids in my family. We all had our own activities, and I wouldn’t say were were particularly close growing up. We didn’t always all eat together. We didn’t always get along as kids. As adults, though, we all return to my parent’s house several times a year, and we all go to my sister’s house in May for Memorial Day. Everyone (including some of my sib’s in-laws, and a few stray cousins) comes to my house for Thanksgiving.I think some of the reason we all continue to get together is because my siblings are actually nice, intelligent people who married nice intelligent people, and we enjoy spending time together. My siblings are people I’d like even if I weren’t related to them.

    Another thing that works for us is acknowledging that our in-laws have family too and that they have a right to spend time with them too. My mom is great at not pouting or acting hurt (as many women tend to do) when someone can’t make it to her house on Christmas Day. She knows that it is important for the in-laws to see their families too. I think my sisters’ and brothers’ spouses like spending time with my parents because my parents are very accepting of them, and don’t treat them any differently than they do their own.

    My siblings and I all discipline each other’s kids when we are together. It is ok for any adult to tell any child to stop hitting, yelling, jumping, and to send them outside. We also play a lot of card and board games together, kids and grownups as well. We have egg hunts for the kids on almost every holiday (Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July). The grandchilden seem to enjoy each other (most of the time). I think when visiting family is just a duty nobody wins.

  9. That’s a great question! I think part of it is the values that the parents are trying to teach, part of it is a developmental stage (my teens never really want to go, although they loved to go as children), part of it is attachment related (some people are just not connected to other humans the way I am) and part of it is how welcome people feel there (do the older generation make a special effort to include the younger ones and make them feel like they belong and are part of something important?). Having said all that, my family reunion is this weekend, and neither of my kids will be going! One is traveling out east and returning too late that day, and the other is still a teenager and would rather hang out with friends!) But I will have a great time and love to see everyone who shows up!

  10. I think judging someone’s success as a parent, by how often their children visit, is actually counter-productive here. I don’t want my visit to be a symbol of my MIL’s success (or merely to swell the numbers at the reunion); I only want to visit if she wants to see *me*.

    Yes, I live 10+ hours from my mother, and my MIL, if you drive… though to fly to my mother’s house is only five hours door to door, because we’re in well-connected major cities. Nothing would make me move closer; I’ve put down my roots where I am. But the reason I communicate a lot with my mother is that she cares about my happiness where I am.

  11. And if you were asking “hey, you child who moved far away, what did your parents do wrong to cause that?” then I don’t know how to answer you, because they didn’t do anything wrong. I am grateful that I was educated and allowed to set out into the world to find out who I am and how I want to live. I am also grateful that I can come visit (and am in fact doing so now), but that doesn’t make me want to live here.

  12. I think it’s great that you are so close to your kids. We’re close to ours too, but sometimes life just takes us farther away than just around the corner. Our son wanted to serve our country as a Marine. He couldn’t do that if he stayed here and our girl wants to be a vet. The closest vet school is 10 hours away. I think it’s a matter of giving them roots and wings and they can have both whether they are next door or in Afghanistan.
    As far as reunions go: My husband is from Nebraska and the family just had a reunion. We ranch in New Mexico and with the drought and 200 sections of land to tend to, there was no way we could make it, as much as would have loved to be there. It is sad that people only seem to get together for weddings and funerals any more.

  13. You know I will bring my “nest” your way any time that yours is feeling a little empty! :) Then we can ponder your question more in person over some yummy thing that you just baked! We can’t stay away from your place.

  14. I live 9 blocks away from my mom and dad and I can’t imagine not living close to them. They are the biggest support I have in my life and I am so happy I was able to bless them with their only two grandsons. Family has always been important to us even though my sister and I were raised to be independent women. Even living so close to my parents, very rare does a day go by that I don’t talk to them.

  15. Good question Jo. I am the youngest of 5 and until I moved across country a year ago – we got together (my parents, siblings and spouses and all the kids) at least once a month as it was either a holiday or someone’s birthday. I had lived the farthest away at an hour, the rest were all within 10-25 minutes to my parents house. We as ‘the kids’ started hosting about 20 years ago so it would be easier on my parents. Food was usually involved and it was just how we were raised I think. We spent summers at our house on a lake with two fuzzy tv channels – so we grew up playing lots of board and card games as a family. We all call and talk to Mom/Dad at least once a week or every couple of days and now I skype with the kids with them at least weekly and usually with the whole family on holidays. I keep up with the nieces and nephews and siblings on FB. We were all raised to be independent adults and are all gainfully employed in our respective fields and have houses and families. I think it is just some families are close and enjoy each others company and some do not. I am so looking forward to heading ‘home’ next summer for a week or two and spending time to reconnect with my family… I’m sure I will see a lot of them while I am there. We tend to put family gatherings towards the top of our priorities. Enjoy your family…. it reminds me so much of mine how close you all are.

  16. I believe there are as many reasons for this as there are people on this earth. Accepting each individuals feelings is of utmost importance.

  17. My daughter is away at school right now, and I am hoping that she will be close. I think part of it has to do with someone taking the initiative to set up the meeting. Choose a date and occasion, and call everyone, and say “I am having a gathering at my house for So and So’s birthday on Saturday at 3. Please come.”

    This will get you much more response than “come over sometime”. The family members will know that others are coming too, and hopefully the relative they would like to see will also be coming.

  18. On their 35th anniversary Mom/Dad asked that their anniversary gift be an all-family reunion every 5 years. Until the grands were in college unable to attend, everyone came. Dad went to heaven in 1994. Mom joined him in 2007. We have continued our reunions. It binds us together, keeps cousins in touch with the fact that they even HAVE cousins. We are spread over 4 states and us 6 kids foot the bill for housing to make it affordable for next gen to attend with their babes (age 5d to 10y now :-) We had a fabulous turnout for Lake Tahoe in 2010-all but 1 DIL attended so we had a raucous time with 29family ranging age 1.5yo twins to 60y oldest “kid”.

    If it hadn’t been a “you need to” from Mom/Dad, I don’t know that many of us would ever see most of our out-of-staters. I am grateful for that push those many years ago. I savor the planning for the trip, and savor the memories of the trip.

    And on class reunions, we ran into classmates at a wedding last month. “Why don’t you 2 ever attend our reunions?” “We did. We had a 10, and a 20 and haven’t had one since”. “oh”……guess I’m not memorable at all ;-)

    I think all you can do is put it out there “we are doing a reunion ____date ____location. Please let me know if I need to arrange your accommodations. Then blast ’em all with fabulous fun photos and memories. They’ll come or they won’t! HUGS from me! I would cry 4ever if our reunions stopped.

  19. I never like to go to these things, either. I am overweight and self conscious, and I don’t want those who knew me “way back when” to see me and make negative comparisons, which make me feel even worse about myself. I didn’t go to my 30th high school reunion this summer saying that I have moved on and don’t care to go back, but the big reason is that I’ve gained so much weight since those days. The same with family reunions. Yes, am raising my girls to be independent, but I am also raising them to be close to, to love, and be loved by family. Family is who is here for you no matter what, after God.

  20. Daisy Christopherson

    I just returned from a 2 week trip to SD, ND, & MN to see family and very close friends from when I was a great deal younger. I saw 2 of my great aunts. One is 96 and one is 101. The 101 year old is sharp as a tack and was so glad to see me. I also saw two of my Mom’s cousins who are 90 & 95. I try to keep in touch with them via phone often. After my grandmother passed away in 1971 our traditional family picnic sort of got lost and now my Mom’s siblings are all gone. I try to keep in touch with my cousins and my own siblings are all trying to get together more often now that we are the oldest generation. I have so many happy memories of those picnic’s long ago and so often wish all of them were still around to visit with. I also connected up with a cousin of my Mom’s who was my first babysitter. I hadn’t seen her for 32 years. We had such a good time. I am glad your kids all wanted to go to the family picnic. That says a lot for your parenting skills. That is such a blessing for them.

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