Families are defined differently than when we were young. Modern families can consist of two women or two men with adopted children or mixed families of different races and religions, and of course, the traditional man and wife marriage we are more accustomed to knowing. Sometimes people live together for years, and never marry or wait for years before they do. There can be no wedding ceremony or very elaborate ones.
Whatever the arrangement, these people see themselves as a family. I guess I’m here to say, “Whatever the package, it is a family, and I want it to be as strong and safe as it can be.”
I came from a family that was as dopey as any. I feel fortunate I always felt safe, secure and loved, and I know that isn’t the case with many of you all. Maybe I was drawn to the work that gave me so much joy because I wanted the same things for others.
I have one living sibling, and I talk to her several times a week on the phone. She helps me remember things that are precious to me from my past family, and in her wisdom, she urges me on as I try to age as gracefully as she has. I traveled to see her last year, and I am so happy I did.
Make time to visit each other even though they live far away. At least email, call and have someone set up an Internet visit, so you can see each other. There is no excuse not to communicate with others in this new age.
Sometimes we feel challenged by what is going on in the family, and as the `elder statesmen,” perhaps we can help members get along better. First, we need to get rid of our own resentments and the idea of never forgiving a slight by somebody. This just feeds the fire and keeps the feud going. Resentments diminish us in many, many ways.
Next we should reach out to any siblings estranged from the rest. It may not work, but maybe it will, and the reward is new life for all. “I’m sorry” goes a long way. And even if you think you are right, give it up and move on. Our days are too precious to miss out on seeing members that are disconnected or distant.
If family gatherings are tense, perhaps smaller groups could work or not being so rigid about how the holidays are celebrated. We all don’t have to go to the same place at the same time and eat the same meal every single year! We need to be mindful of our children’s traditions they have established and be flexible toward their plans and schedules. Be sure you consider their in-laws’ plans and ask about how to accommodate everybody. Plan gatherings together to get closer and make the larger family more bonded. We might even learn some new rituals and traditions that will expand our world and enhance our lives.
Just think, we all can help the expanding world become a better family by starting with our own.
Nedda Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.