Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Getting Rid of Guilt

I grew up with close ties to cousins on both sides, most notably friends with Brenda Romph on my mom's side and Jessica Sanner on my dad's.  Staying friends with Brenda wasn't too hard since her mom taught me piano, and we lived close enough to each other to beg for the occasional sleep over.  And even though Jessica lived in Arizona, we were best friends whenever we got the chance to be together.  I have many great memories of the many less-than-award-winning scripts we wrote (and coerced our younger cousins into performing) and of our frequent encores of our harmonized arrangement of "The Rose."

I enjoyed time with lots of other cousins, too.  Once Phil Lewis and I got over hating each other, we were actually really good friends.  Cameron and Justin, though older than me, were almost always willing to let me hang around.  And Robert Casdorph was always the epitome of cool to me.

Whether together for family reunions, holiday celebrations, blessings or baptisms, our families always felt close on both sides.  But looking back, though my parents might say otherwise, I don't really remember spending significant amounts of time with my parents' cousins and their children.

Why then, do I feel so guilty for not keeping up close relationships with my cousins (and Kirk's cousins) now that we all have kids?  I still like my cousins, as I presume Kirk does, and I still enjoy spending time with them when weddings, baby showers, etc. prompt people to gather.  But often, the guilt of not remembering so-and-so's children's names, where their spouse works, or - let's be honest - a single speck of common ground to work with as a conversation starter prevents me from getting reacquainted.  (Note: this is less of a problem with the local members of the Nelson family, since I tend  to see them or get reports from my mom more frequently.)

Most daunting to me of all social situations is the gathering of people I presumably know.  I tend to retreat into my shell, afraid of putting my foot in my mouth and offending family.  I know it's silly, and I know they are all nice people, and I know they are probably just as afraid of saying something stupid to me.  But all that knowing does little toward convincing me to open my mouth and make friendships.

When life provides an opportunity to get together with the extended family, I do enjoy watching my kids play with the instant friends they always seem to so easily make.  Dylan recently befriended second-cousin Rorie with no need for a cheat sheet of talking points (ha ha... you get it right, since D doesn't say much).  And at yesterday's extended Fife get-together, all three boys had no problem jumping into the nineteen-kid array while I sat uncomfortably by, wishing I had more to say.

Don't get me wrong, I love family get-togethers!  My icy walls eventually thaw, and I always leave feeling somewhat reconnected.  And I have noticed that the thawing generally begins when the sporting equipment comes out.

So I hereby propose that all family gatherings including members of more than one extended family unit begin with volleyball.  In sunny weather, this should be in the form of water balloon volleyball, as I was just getting the hang of the sport last night when the crazy wind cut our gathering short.

Insecurities aside, I had a great time last night with the Fifes.  Although the festivities started at 2, we weren't able to get there until 5 because of responsibilities at church.  We missed out on the three-legged races and a few other fun activities, but we got there in time to enjoy a barbeque, a water balloon toss, and the pinata.  I helped organize the kids by age, and I had to laugh when Logan (self-proclaimed as six years old) tried to convince me he was four so he could get a better placement in line.  And the few girls in this boy-heavy generation rallied around me as we cheered on the competition.  It was fun to get to hang out with Leslye, Addison, and Emma!

Even if my own experience had been terrible (and it wasn't), the kids had a blast.  With plenty of doting aunts and grandmas to go around, each kid left with a sack full of goodies and prizes.  Dylan was so exhausted that he fell asleep on the way home, still clutching his winnings.  So for Aunt Diane and Grandma Tess (the masterminds behind the activities in which we got to participate), consider this picture evidence of a party well-thrown.

And I'm going to try to work on the guilt.  Maybe we don't see each other all that often.  Maybe we're just all pretty busy in our own little lives raising our own little families and letting our kids spend time with their own little cousins.  And that's ok!  So I'm done wasting the first half of every gathering feeling awkwardly insecure.  Bring on the next party... I'm ready to actually talk to someone!


Kris said...

Awesome video!