Preserving What's Good About Family

I've been struggling for a long time with the concept of 'family'. When I was growing up, my mother and father took us to regularly visit various members of both sides of the family, we had family cook outs with cousins, Aunts and Uncles, we had family Christmas parties, etc. My father organized family reunions for his family, as he observed that the only time family seemed to gather was at a funeral.

I haven't seen many members of my family for a very long time, that is their choice, not mine, so I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to bring together my husband's side of the family. I put together dinners, cook outs, birthday parties, holiday meals, etc., trying to get the family together.

Over the last few years, we've had some drama over family times. I've realized that though I long for a big, happy family get-together, with a successful result, it's likely not going to happen because other members of the family don't necessarily agree with the importance or value I place on 'family' time together.

Already this year, my husband and I have had several bad results, were left with hurt feelings, having had a bad experience when gathering family. There are some younger members of the family that aren't interested in getting together and enjoying our time together. They complain, question everything, are generally grumpy and seem to be bored or 'put out' by having to tolerate time together.

It won't be long and we'll be facing Thanksgiving. Though having family gathered together at such a 'family' time of year is so important to me, I've begun to realize that I can't make these folks treat each other well, can't make them want to be together, can't make anyone enjoy the time together... it may be wise to gather the folks that want to be together, that enjoy the time and to exclude the people who really aren't interested.

We've decided we're not going to invite the youngest members of the family, those who have caused drama and upset in the past and particularly this year during other family events. If we eliminate the instigators and agitators, we'll be preserving what's good about family, what makes our time together meaningful and will allow those of us who want to be together enjoy the opportunity.

This doesn't mean that I value family time less, or value time with certain members of the family more than others, it also doesn't mean that in the future these folks won't be included again, it just means that family time doesn't have to be dramatic, doesn't have to end with hurt feelings or upset, that those of us who want to spend time together don't have to endure selfish, crabby behavior.

My hope is that the members of the family who seem to be causing an awful lot of drama this year will realize, by not participating, what they are missing, how nice it really was to gather together and perhaps adjust their attitudes and behaviors.

As much as I love having family together, I realize I don't need to accept behaviors that are hurtful. If some folks are just going to spoil the occasion, why set everyone up for disappointment?
rollingwithhusky rollingwithhusky
46-50, F
11 Responses Jul 18, 2011

Hi Mrs Doglover, (I'm assuming fr ur name that u have and love a canine, i love dogs- as I value love and loyalty) I share the opinion that family who are not up to it should not be invited. Let us admit that gathering family has a reason, it is to be surrounded by love and support, to mutually encourage each other, to aspire for better or greater things when others in your family circle inspire you whether by words or by what you have seen them accomplish... yes there might be a little envy and some other petty, fleeting issues here and there( we are human after all and we have to acknowledge that some unhealthy feeling comes up now and then, but we have to banish ugly, unconstructive feelings, and see them for what they are, feelings only, feelings come and go, we should not dwell on them if they are not the good kind) but the long and short of it, I believe, is those who are in attendance should respect themselves, respect others at the gathering specially the ones who gave of themselves to make the affair possible, and just try to have a good time. They should appreciate the fact that a gathering of family after all, is not every week or every month maybe not even regularly by any standard. If they come miserable and cause others to feel down, then they should not come at all. I believe that by genuinely gathering family over occasions and events, we want to make things better for others even in simple ways, and make ourselves feel better by doing so, however, I do not think anybody has the right to ruin the effort we put by coming to a get together we arranged, in a bad fr<x>ame of mind and bringing a bad attitude. Pleasing others, or trying to, is a way of life for many of us here pouring our hearts to strangers. We should not give unhappy people the right to come and behave as if we owe them their happiness and we certainly do not owe them for coming. So those who do not like to come should not come, they are welcome to come if they want to, but only if they come amicably and not come with the intent to cause distress and sow discord. I learned a phrase which seemed sarcastic before but certainly applies to those for whom we intend well but choose to act as if they are bitter most of the times: "were you forced to come?" If these people will come and act as if it was a big deal for them to come, then by all means it should be okay not to invite them next time. We need to be surrounded by positive people, whoever will appreciate us, or the general good, then those should be welcome. We love our families, no question about it for many of us, but those who love us and would accept us, I guess they family too, bonds are not just those made with blood, but bonds by a common desire and need for goodwill and warmth, giving and exchanging good things and good times.

I completely understand. I am a young woman, I recently went to visit my grandfather who lives in a village where a lot of family members go for the summer. My grandfather has always been a strong man and had helped raise his nieces and nephews when they had lost a parent at a young age. <br />
Now what is heart breaking is that these people who are now in their 40s/50s pass by his front door and do not even knock on his door to see if he was alive or not. Just dismiss him as a sick old man.<br />
I even found a black and white photo with my grandfather in the midle being their rock and these people around him.<br />
My mother taught me how family is important but I've come to realise not everyone thinks this way.

I totally understand your story. Times are changing. And the newer generations are not wanting to be as involved with family time anymore. And I miss that. I was just watching family videos. Big holidays, big parties, big everything. But I know as far as my family goes, nothings been the same after losing your relatives. My family hasn't seemed to fully recoup, even though we've tried to bring everyone together. Its sad when your children have never met anyone beside your immediate family. But as far as the young go..they tend to be on something different. My younger brother rarely goes to family events, but is forever out with his friends. And he'll never realize what he missed out on. It is good to keep that family togetherness. It instills strong values. And not to mention, people who have your back. Unfortunately, I haven't been seeing that at all in many families for whatever reasons.

Uhm.. if you send an invitation, then she could turn it down, couldn't she? If she does not want to come, why would she? <br />
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You are right bout the "tough love" part :).

Not inviting your family, is saying: you are not family. By "not inviting" you make the drama bigger. Even though they started a drama it is better to talk to someone, then ignore someone. So call the younger ones and ask if they like to be invited. If they like to be invited, then there are some ground rules to follow. Explain your ground rules. And explain what will be done if they won't follow them. <br />
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I am never invited to my familiy parties, because I WAS one of those younger people who caused drama. I have changed, but there is no-one who can see I have, because I am never invited. That does not feel good.

That is just the thing... these particular young people don't want to communicate, don't want to 'get together', feel put upon to do so. Please re-read what I shared with the original story... they don't value these 'family get-togethers', they don't put the same value on 'family' that the older members of the family do. They do not express a desire to be included, in fact, quite the contrary, my youngest niece recently told everyone she wants to be left alone, she knows people care, but she feels our interest in her and what's happening with her is tiresome and annoying.
Why include someone with this sort of attitude? It's not that we're 'punishing' anyone by not inviting them, it's more like giving them what they want and in the long run, we're eliminating a great deal of unnecessary stress for ourselves. It also doesn't mean they will never be included in the future, but if members of the family want to gather together and enjoy one anothers company, we should be able to do so without feeling we have to twist anyone's arm to participate or put up with a lot of nonsense that spoils the gathering for everyone else.
I refuse to allow these young people to ruin the holidays for everyone else... perhaps when they have matured a little they will understand the value of family and spending time together and will willingly want to participate.
Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm sorry you feel left out and that your family never allowed you to demonstrate that you had changed... what you're describing sounds a lot like 'tough love'... sometimes we have to lose something to realize the value of it and to understand that our own choices and behaviors have consequences.

Petershock,<br />
There was a time when I felt and believed just as you do. After 7 years of therapy and learning that I have a right to protect me, to make choices that prevent more stress and more pain, I've realized that there are some dynamics within a family that simply can't be changed and that to protect oneself sometimes means knowing what dynamics work and what ones don't, therefore making the decision to exclude some folks (who clearly aren't interested in being included and participating anyway) can actually lessen the stress and drama. I don't owe anyone the emotional suffering I would endure as a result of their careless attitudes and behaviors. <br />
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The younger members I mentioned that won't be invited, have a responsibility this year to attend the holidays and help with the meals, at their mother-in-laws, where they are currently living. We won't invited them, not only to prevent drama, but to prevent conflict between our families, as they really have a responsibility to help the other half of their family. <br />
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I believe people have to learn how to treat others if they want to be included in group activities. They can't be allowed to treat people poorly and start drama, create stress, without being held accountable. If they are permitted to, they never learn how to treat others or what is expected of them. <br />
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I also believe if someone is being disrespectful, abusive, then I have every right not to include them at my home. <br />
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I appreciate your thoughts and thank you for sharing them... it took me many years of therapy and introspection to understand and be okay with protecting myself.

I would recommend against excluding any family members. It will just make the divide greater and give them something to use in blaming you for the issues causing the lack of closeness. They will likely feel blamed and defensive. Any grumpy behavior at a family event will expand into new issues, including you hand picking who deserves to be invited. I grew up in an extended family that spent a lot of time together, holidays and in general. That has not worked out with my family now that I have kids and a wife. The more people started to blame and push the worse everything got. With family I have found it is best not to keep track of who is to blame and who caused what. You can't change who your family is and you can't change how people act. There are all different personalities, ages and stages in life all mixed up in a family so there will be all different types of reactions and behavior all at once. If these trouble makers are younger they are probably just being a immature and will end up feeling stupid or realizing that they do value what you have tried to put together when they are older and will appreciate it that much more. There is no perfect family event. three families with children are not going to enjoy the same activity and schedule three other family members that aren't married or don't have kids are going to enjoy. That's natural and will create different levels of participation etc. After my wife and I had kids my family used to try and have family get togethers that were late at night, at bars and involved drinking. Seemed clear to us that it was rude and inconsiderate but they just didn't understand. They got mad we never came or left early and started to exclude us. The were mad we didn't get a babysitter and go party. Now they have kids and want to change everything to be more family friendly. We go in and out of being in sync. sometime we're all in the same place some times we are not. It's best to ride out the non-perfect times and just be glad you're all together. Sometime non perfect family times are as important as the perfect times. They are all past of the journey we make with family and it's the dark roads along the way that make the bright ones better but if everyone splits up along the dark roads it can be hard to find everyone when you get back on the bright ones. I think it's best to include everyone but leave the invitation loose and make it ok for people to not make it without any guilt involved. I doubt all the family time you remember as a kid were perfect. I doubt there weren't issue the adults were having. Some times we remember things happening as a kids but didn't really know things only seemed perfect from the kid perspective. I have learned that while I was running around with my cousins have the "perfect" summer or Christmas, there were issues that would be going on some years. But I am sure glad I had those time. My parents stuck it out with their family even though the difficult time and stayed close. I have a friend with a great relationship with his siblings, now all married with children. Every year they have a gold outing in Florida. He never goes because they are too busy. His brothers want him to go every year but no one ever gets mad or hold it against him. They also never stop inviting him. They all have older kids and my friend realizes that when is four kids get a little older they will probably be able to make it once in a while. They are just at a different stage and have different values right now. They all see each other at Christmas and enjoy the time together, no baggage about the golf outing and no one hassles him about it. Seems kind of nice, kind of wish I would have had that with my family.

Dear rollingwithhusky: I very much liked your post and couldn't agree, more. You remind me so much of my "family" days. I remember, as a youngster, how much I looked forward to Christmas. It was the only time that "our family" gathered. I got to see my aunts, uncles and cousins (once a year). It was a great joy in my life. Today? "Christmas is so commercial". It's just not like "yesteryear".<br />
We no longer celebrate, like we did when I was growing up. We rarely see each other. How I wish to return to "those" days. I don't know if we're on the "same page", or not --- but I miss those days.<br />
Best regards: JIM

Yes Jim, we're on the same page.
My childhood was pretty traumatic. I'm a survivor of child abuse... the abuse was verbal, emotional and physical, so there aren't a lot of really 'good' memories that stand out in my mind, most of the things I remember the clearest are the bad things... but holidays were usually pretty nice. Like you, I pretty much only saw my Aunt and Uncle during the holiday season and that usually involved a meal or an attempted holiday party.

Today I seem to spend most of my time trying to recapture the warm feeling that gave me, trying to scrape together the family I have now, to make it resemble those good times.

I know that it's a losing battle, because those days and those people are gone now... trying to 'make' a family come together, trying to 'recapture' something from the past is more or less setting myself up for disappointment.

People aren't the same as they used to be... the world has changed a lot. Family used to have value, extended families that included 'generations' were valued, old stories shared, family history relished... today no one seems to have time, or wants to spend any of their 'precious time' with others, it's all about "I, me, mine" and to heck with everyone else... even if others are trying to do something special.

I'm glad someone understands! Thanks for sharing. :)

Dear rollingwithhusky: I can feel your pain -- because I've known it. I grew up in a family that was as cold as the winters they came from. I was the "child that no one wanted". It was only when I left my family, that, at last, I was able to feel wanted.
You've touched my heart because I, like you, know what "trauma" is all about. I'm so sorry that you endured emotional and physical pain. But guess what? So have I.
I was hated in high school. Then, when I "thought" I was coming "home" to "family" --- there was more hatred: ""I did this or didn't do this, etc". How could I have won? This happened in my teen-aged years --- the most impressionable years of our lives. That may explain, why, to this day I'm on anti-depressants. The only time that life ever brought comfort to me was when my aunts, uncles and cousins visited us, once per year, for a Chirstmas gathering. It was they, not my parents, who brought a moment of comfort unto my life. In the Bible it says: "Honor thy Father and Mother". What about the reverse? What about "honoring" the child you brought into this life?
As far as nostalgia --- yes, I remember some happy moments from my child-hood --- but those moments never came from my parents. I think it's very sad when any child can't depend upon (his or hers) love from (their) parents. I never found this love. I never knew it, until I became an adult. You know, in just one magic moment, I would love to be able to turn the hands of time back --- I would love to have had parents and other loved-ones who cared about me, appreciated me --- and loved me. I was never that lucky, in life.
I hope that your future life will bring you everything you seek.
Best regards and love: JIM.

My sister who has decided after her husband died in 1981 that I was to be abandoned had a family re-union when our Grand-Mere was 80. That was 1975. I was amazed that she was able to get all 6 of the children and thier children together. It was at our house in Quincy,MA. We had 1/6 of an acre of land. We also did not have a car so we couldn't go to anyone else's house. Our family was always the get together at funerals type. That day was amazing.

Sorry to hear that you've been 'abandoned' by your family. I know the feeling all too well... I'm glad you did get to experience a family reunion such as you describe, those are nice memories to have... Thanks for sharing with me!

Thanks Azaliea. <br />
I'm realizing that by trying to get all these people in one place together for a mutual purpose, though my intentions are good, I'm creating the opportunity for this drama to occur. I'm also realizing that there are some folks who are never happy, they will not allow others to be happy, they use their displeasure and unhappiness to manipulate various situations. I don't necessarily think it's a conscious thing for them.<br />
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Right now, in our family, there are some folks who aren't feeling particularly good about themselves, they feel inadequate, vulnerable and are frightened about their futures, their circumstances have changed and they've had to accept that they need help, that they are struggling... their pride is ruling the day. <br />
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If they are included, they will negatively effect everyone involved. Sometimes you have to make decisions like my husband and I have made, for the sake of self-preservation, for your own health and well-being and hope that in time, the offending parties will understand. You're right, it is a lot about maturity. <br />
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!

Like the sands, family is always shifting. I can completely understand you. I grew up and married into "family". My divorce cut family down to half (I have retained my side only). The best I can say is "hang on to those closest to you, and others may come around. Sometimes it's about maturity. People don't realize what they loose when they complicate family matters.<br />
I do miss the huge family gatherings, but am content with what ever I get when ever I can get them together.