It’s that time of year. As Thanksgiving approaches, websites will fill up with “Family Survival Guides” and “My Bigoted In-Law” stories. You might even find a few of them here on our site. It’s only natural that family holidays bring out a lot of family gripes. But I always feel a little disconnected from the internet community right around this time, mostly because I really love spending time with my family. In fact, family holidays feel a lot like every other Sunday of the year, plus more food. All of that, “Ugh, I have to see my parents,” talk just makes me feel really lucky and really confused about how horrible everyone’s parents are.
I realize that for plenty of families, they can’t see extended relatives every weekend. Whether they’re limited by space or by distance, it can be hard to get dozens of people together regularly. Personally, my husband and I are aware that we spend an inordinate amount of time grabbing dinner with his sisters, organizing play dates with mine, and then trying to get both sides together for a meal that needs table setting for about 40 people. I get that this isn’t the norm.
At the same time, are everyone else’s families really so bad? Sure, some of them are. Some people are horrible in general. But is it really so difficult to ignore your differences for a couple days and enjoy each other’s company? Forget about each other’s politics and past squabbles and be thankful that your all able to come together now?
No family is perfect. Most of us leave that illusion to the Cleavers. I’m not saying that there aren’t times my brother-in-law and I don’t disagree about the doom surrounding Generation Y. I’ve spent years grappling with the fact that my uncle, and my grandfather before him, keeps guns in the house. We all have those issues.
But families are so much more than those issues that we might not agree on. There’s the shared history, listening to my grandfather and great-aunts talk about extended family that I never met. There’s the background to every piece of china my grandmother ever served food on. I still love hearing those stories.
In our family, we care about what’s going on in each other’s lives. We get excited for good news and supportive should something troubling happen. We gather around our youngest, helping and teaching them, all the while marveling at how adorable and intelligent and fearless they are. It doesn’t matter if we’ve had the best year or the worst. We will always be there ready to share with each other.
When I think about all of these blessings that our families give us, all of these things that I’m so thankful for, it makes me a little sad to see all of the whining and nitpicking we do about family time online. It makes me feel bad for the people who only see stress when their parents visit. And I guess, it also makes me feel very lucky to have family nearby all the time. These are people I want to see a lot more than a couple times a year when I get time off work. These are people I share my life with. Sharing the holidays is just another part of that.