I was chatting with a friend recently and mentioned that since I moved back to Calgary, I've started a monthly "Family Night." He said that sounded like a great idea and mentioned that his family only gets together at funerals now, and that they keep saying they should meet up in between but "it never happens. Maybe soon."
Does this sound familiar?
Everybody's busy. Everyone is tearing around at 90 miles an hour like their hair's on fire, doing this, doing that, running here, running there - and life is too rushed, too full, too stressful.
For about a million reasons, my family has been disconnected for years. It didn't help that the older ones left the house when the younger ones were virtually babies so they never really got to know each other. And it didn't help that I moved to England for a long time, and although a couple of my children lived there with me for some of that time, for the most part everyone was back here in Calgary.
In my early years in England, I was back and forth across the pond frequently, spending long periods visiting in Calgary. But circumstances changed and I ended up stuck in England and unable to see my family more than briefly every year or two.
So now I'm back. I'm not getting any younger. Life is precious. I've missed so much of my children's lives, and they are missing out on really knowing each other, as are their children. I decided it was a good idea to pick one night a month and declare it to be 'Family Night'. This proved to be a little tricky with everyone's schedules but I did my best and came up with the last Sunday of every month.
It means a little compromise sometimes for a couple of my children who often work weekends, and maybe their time with us will be a little short and they have to come a bit later. One of my daughters has two young children, which means they need to be here on the earlier end of things. So from 5.00 onward, it's "show up when you can, leave when you must" and with a little luck, they will all cross paths for at least an hour or two once a month.
You could do what I do to keep things simple. Tell all of them to bring or order what they want to eat and you provide drinks, snacks, maybe a dessert. Then you don't have to worry about likes, dislikes, meal planning, serving etc. Everyone just eats what they want, when they want. The emphasis is on the people, not the food.
You can organise activities, play games like charades or Pictionary or the fabulously wicked card game Anomia.
My family and I have even been known to share our favourite Youtube videos on Family Night. I've shared bits of my favourite childhood shows and cartoons that haven't seen the light of day in years - and it's proven to be a real eye-opening to my family, seeing the way things used to be, you know, back in the Stone Age...
We share music videos or all sorts of dopey ones, or others that move some of us to tears. I would never have thought of Youtube as a great way to get to know the others in a room but it really is.
If you don't like the fact that you and your family meet up only at funerals, there's no point hoping it will change if that's all you're prepared to do about it. Same with not seeing your friends very often. If everyone keeps saying you really should meet up and then just leaves it at that, it's never going to happen.
Somebody has to organise it. Why not you? Send a group messages on Facebook, or group email or pick up the phone and ring them. There is no shortage of ways to contact the people you say you miss and want to see and if you want it to be a regular thing, then do something about it.
Pick some dates. Make a plan. Don't just sit there wishing and hoping that it would be nice to get to spend more time together. People move away. They die, sometimes even when they are very young. Don't act like the people you love will always be there. You know perfectly well that there's no guarantee about that. They could be gone tomorrow. And so could you.
Give yourselves a chance to get to know each other. A chance to create some yummy memories that will last a lifetime. A chance to make sure they know you love them.
What are you waiting for?
set to a piece I wrote for my late father
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