I begin this post with a reprint of a Facebook status that I posted on May 1, 2011. Here it is:
“Whom you are with. It’s more important than where you are.”
As my readers may know, this weekend I was back in Lincoln and Omaha for Sam’s בר מצוה (bar mitzvah), which obviously involved seeing my family, both immediate and extended. I consider myself to be a real family man, as it has always been meaningful to me being in the presence of family. Actually, the Facebook status came from a weekend that Mom and Dad spent with me in Chicago. Though it was great that they came to see me in Chicago, I would have been happy seeing them in Chicago, Lincoln, or even some Po-Dunk place. My parents are my strongest role models, and although I talk with them on the phone quite frequently, phone conversations and even Skype conversations cannot replace physical proximity. As social creatures, humans need true face-to-face contact to stay healthy and sane.
When I was younger, living in Fort Dodge, Iowa, most of our vacations were not to “exotic” locations, but rather to Lincoln, Omaha, or Milwaukee, to be with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Honestly, I think this is the best way to do vacations with younger children. In this way, the younger children get an opportunity to more comfortably build relationships with people older than them of whom they are related. Vacations to be with extended family for younger kids is more important than “exotic” destinations that are not as likely to be remembered. Your relationships with family will last a lifetime, but even the “trip of a lifetime” will have memories that dwindle over time. This is especially true if the kids are too young to appreciate it.
Living in Chicago, though I have many friends (although most people would consider them to be acquaintances instead), I miss the opportunity to be around family. This makes every time that I go to Nebraska or Milwaukee, and every time that family members come to Chicago, personally salient. Though I didn’t appreciate time with family when I was younger, once I moved out and could not take it for granted, it dawned on me how important it is to have a strong bond with the clan. It doesn’t matter what activities we are doing when together–the togetherness is what matters.
Furthermore, even though everyone in the family has their own quirks, knowing how others in your family act in their own ways can help you to understand when others unrelated to you act in different ways. In the idea of extending a family (i.e. through relationships), I have a feeling that having a strong bond with your own family is necessary to be able to develop meaningful relationships with people on the outside. Not in the sense of your family being “practice” for other relationships, but especially your older cousins, or your aunts and uncles, etc. They may have advice for you!
Yet, at the same time, the great thing about occasions for family reunions such as בני מצות, weddings, and other happy events is that they bring the family together. However, sometimes there can be “too much family.” I don’t feel that I have ever been “family’d out” from suchlike events, but not everyone feels the same way. Despite coming from the same ancestors, different branches from the parents will be non-identical, due to factors such as spouse, kids, personality, and much more. Though an ideal family would have everyone getting together well, some can be an explosion waiting to happen. Of course, I never consider these, since I try to be a tension tamer.
But, all in all, I have enjoyed this weekend with kin and look forward to seeing Mom, Dad, Casey, and Levi next weekend in Chicago for the Husker game!
Today is the fourteenth day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes two weeks.