Happy Wednesday, to you and your family!
We are still settling back in to the routines of life, following our weekend in Philadelphia. After finally getting some time to celebrate Christmas (2014) with Jay's family, the Higham's spend Friday through Monday catching up with the Higham clan.
Getting away is great, but it comes with so much extra work. You have all the prep getting ready to leave, then all the clean up when you come back. And for a family of 7, it's no small feat. However, we were reminded this weekend, how great it is to finally be rid of the extras such as pack and plays, strollers, diaper backs and such. Now I know, it's been a while since we've needed any of those things. True. But over the last couple of years, we haven't been able to travel that much, so it's still kind of a novelty.
As always, traveling with the entire family, to visit the entire family, can come with it's share of stressers and anxieties. From getting everything packed and hitting the road on time, to the time spent with family, the pressures associated with long distant travel and visiting can come with a number of unpleasantries. But we come to to learn a few things over the years that have helped to make our visits enjoyable and memoriable.
1. Everyone is different, and that's okay.
One of the biggest lessons we've come to learn is that we are all different. When you grow up in a house with family, you become accustom to certain things; personalities, foods, expectations, etc. But when you marry, move away, and start your own family, whether you realize it or not, you forget the things you were once accustom to. In their place you and your family have created a whole new way of customs. As a family, you do thing differently from those you once shared a house with. What we have come to really appreciate is knowing that we do thing a little differently, and that's okay.
It's true with both sides of our family. On Amy's side of the family there are 3 siblings. That creates 3 new family units. On Jay's side, there are four siblings. 3 of the 4 now have families. That's 6 individual family units. Add in the parent/grandparents (2 more family units) and you now have 8. That's 8 family units who all have their own schedules, practices, expectations, food preferences, discipline and child reering techniques, husband/wife relationships, interests, likes and dislikes. Get them all together for any given length of time and you have the potential for some really tense situations. But if you go into the visit know that who you are as a family is what works for you, then you can be with your extended family without stress and anxiety of the visit.
Here's what you do. Recognize that, 1.) You and your spouse are raising your family. This is just a visit. You are not being asked to change who you are, and you are not responsible for changing anyone else. So care for your family and be okay with everyone else. 2.) Remember, this is your family and that love covers a multitude of sins. Every time we get ready to visit any of our family, we remind ourselves of the importance to show grace and to love our family. We determined a long time ago that what we wanted most when we were with our family was to create moments that we would remember for the rest of our lives. And 3.) let the past be the past. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift that we choose to give. It's better to live in the here and now, then to dwell in the past. Choose to forgive and live in the moment.
Something Amy says over and over, whether we are with family or anyone else, is that we choose to show them Jesus. Something that we need to realize is, have no idea what's going on in anyone elses heart or mind. We don't know the fears, struggles, challenges, set backs, frustrations, disappointments, or worries that our extended families are experiencing. We get together, put smiles on our faces, and pretend that everything is great. No worries, no problems, just the perfect picture of the perfect family.
Well, that's not possible. There's no such thing as a perfect family. And yet, all too often we find ourselves walking through life, especially when we're with our families, just as though everything is great, while inside we are fighting back the lie that maybe, our world is falling a part around us. But what Jesus does when we find him with people is this, he simply chooses to love them for who they are, where they are at. Never does he expect any of those he comes into to contact with to already have life all figured out. He simply walks into their lives and invites them into relationship with him. No initial expectations. No 'get your life together then we'll talk'.
When visiting family, what's more important; expecting everyone to rise to your expectations and standards, or meeting them where they are and loving them for who they are? You see, to be like Jesus is to go out of your way to show what it would be like if Jesus himself was standing in the presence. Love them. Serve them. Talk with them, not at them. Listen instead of argue. And choose to put their needs ahead of your own.
Playing board games. Visiting local sights. Sitting around the table laughing. Taking walks. Going to parks and playgrounds. Picking up the 'most have' food. These are the kinds of things that lead to good memories.
3. Make memories that you want to remember.
A number of years ago, we were talking as a family about our extended family and how we interacted with them when we were together. For a while, family tensions were high with some of our visits ending a little less enjoyable then we had wanted. One of our sons made a comment to the effect of, wanting to have more memories of good times spend with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. So we began to ask, What do we need to do to make our times together more memorable?
It was this question that pushed us to adjust our own hearts and minds as we prepared to spend time with family. We determined that if we wanted to make the kind of memories that we wanted to remember, then we would have to be part of the process of change. So we decided to make some changes. Along with what we've shared above, we set out to make the most of our time with our family. That means, we look for ways to create memories that we want to remember.
Playing board games. Visiting local sights. Sitting around the table laughing. Taking walks. Going to parks and playgrounds. Picking up the 'most have' food. These are the kinds of things that lead to good memories. Take advantage of the opportunity to do something that brings laughter, fun, and conversation. Be silly. Let down your guard. When you would rather sit in the house and read or watch TV, go out and play.
Your time with your family is what you make it. Or, at least what you try to make it. Life is short, and your family is a gift. God has blessed us with moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandmoms and grandpops, cousins and friends. Why would we not want to make every moment with them something special?
We love our family. And we acknowledge that visiting family can be stressful. But we can choose the role we play in reducing the stress and creating moments of unforgettable fun. This past weekend in Philadelphia was one of our best, simply because we chose to make it a great one. Enjoy your family.
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.