I suppose this saying is to satisfy people who aren’t as fortunate as me when it comes to family. The Blose family is a rock star family, and anyone lucky enough to marry into my family has won the lottery. The great thing is that I didn’t have to wait and become an adult in order to realize what I had. After high school graduation, friends were planning beach trips together but my family was going to the Outer Banks that same week. I knew where I would have the most fun and chose to go with my family. I even had to sleep on a raft on the front porch because the house was so full, but every belly laugh made it all worth the sacrifice.
This week could have been really tough for me as Aaron and Lauren reached milestones that I dreaded since their Dad died. Aaron was graduating from high school and Lauren was turning sixteen. Who would have been whooping up this occasion more than Tony? He was always so proud of both kids that I often was embarrassed by his bragging to our friends. How could I possibly stand in this moment all alone?
But I didn’t have to be alone because here they came. Susan and Grace came on Thursday and even though she doesn’t want the attention, she’s getting it. If you want something done, just ask her. I had to go to work on Friday and had a mile long list of things to get done. She somehow sweet-talked a construction worker named Carl (think CaddyShack) into using a backhoe to dig up the tree stump left from my fallen tree. She dug a hole and planted my new tree. She painted a wall. She went grocery shopping and she cleaned my floor. She even helped me scrub the skunk spray off of Delilah. Thank you, Susan and Grace.
Mom, Betsy, Mark and Andrew all came next. Of course, Mom had already made dinner which was waiting for me when I came home. We watched a video of Aaron’s life which my sister Barbara lovingly completed a month before. Although it made us all teary-eyed, it was uplifting enough that we went honky-tonking. I was the designated driver and although I am very tempted to post the video of Mark and Andrew singing along to the bands loud, proud and completely off-key, I will keep that for just family. Anne and her three little ones came the next day with all of their energy to remind us that this family is still growing. It’s reassuring to know that there will always be little ones to play with legos, shoot water guns and refuse to eat anything that looks remotely healthy. Many couldn’t come but called to send their good wishes. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were there as well to add to and soak in all of the Blose love and energy.
I credit my Mom and Dad with some good old common sense parenting. I am going to do my best to make a small list of what my parents did.
1. Bite your tongue before you criticize. Think before you speak because you can’t take back what you say. We did a horrible job at this when we were kids but that’s when we learned the lesson. It’s not worth telling an adult sibling if you think they are doing something wrong.
2. Laugh. A lot. The things that I remember from my childhood were not big momentous occasions but something funny that happened. When I’m feeling down, I think of one of these moments off my list and can’t help but feel good. I added about five things to my list this weekend thanks to my family.
3. Invest in a family trip once a year. It doesn’t have to be a big trip to Europe, but shared experiences add to your family’s emotional bank account.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Bigger stuff is inevitable and if you’ve not dealt well with a fallen tree or a dog sprayed by a skunk, you won’t be able to pull yourselves out of a hole when a parent or spouse passes away.
5. Give some of your family’s love away to others. My mother took in foster babies, even with seven of her own. We fed, diapered and bathed these babies and loved them just like a sibling before they left us. My Dad showed grace to the homeless and down-trodden, often picking up hitchhikers and giving them money, much to my mother’s dismay.
6. Teach your kids that the sun doesn’t rise and set on their behinds. I had to wait in line to use the bathroom. I sometimes got left behind at church (I am kind of small and hard to see). I learned how to entertain myself. In high school, I drove a huge wood-paneled station wagon that cut off every time I went around a corner. I never felt unloved or unimportant, but empowered to be confident and self-reliant.
7. Don’t think that your kids don’t make mistakes. Even though we didn’t get in much trouble, my parents always took the teachers’ and coaches’ sides. As a teacher, I see parents crippling their children by always defending them rather than helping them learn from their mistakes.
8. Get your kids a pet. It teaches them unconditional love, responsibility and to ultimately deal with death of a loved one. Make it a fish or a butterfly if you need something simple. Of course, you will teach the death lesson much sooner if this is the route you choose.
9. Don’t compare your kids. Each has a gift and purpose in this world. If you are trying to make one into another, you are suppressing a purpose that needs to be nourished. This must have been hard for my parents, but they did it. Some of us could sing, some excelled in sports, some were creative, and we each had different academic abilities. I never felt like I was less of a person because I wasn’t super-athletic. But…I can do some pretty wicked yoga poses now!
10. Give your kids some sort of spiritual foundation. I went to church every Sunday and for the most part, my kids do too, but I am not trying to convert anyone. I don’t care if you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or any organized religion at all. Teach your kids to believe that there is something bigger than any and all of us. I have some atheist friends but as I ask them..how’s it working for you? Not so good most of the time.
I hesitated today to write this because I know of people who haven’t been as fortunate as I have regarding family. I am not naive and realize that there are families scarred by alcoholism, abuse, resentment and some just plain drama. Maybe you can find this in your friends or maybe you can make it for yourself. It is worth noting that my father grew up in a home where there wasn’t abundant laughter and love, but he set an intention for himself in his late teens to have this and he did. If you want it, you can have it, too.