Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
Cousins are forever friends whose hearts are bound together by the love of a family. [...] Cousins love to get together at holiday time or anytime…for when grownups are busy “catching up” cousins are busy “building up” a store of happy memories – sure to last a lifetime! K. Rinehart (See complete verse)
Are families members as close as they used to be?
When I think of families living within driving distances of each other, I wonder how often they meet up these days. As I pose these questions, examples of old BC families with buckets of traditions related to camping reunions, casual and impromptu get-togethers, sporting events and other rituals that are shared come to mind. But all families aren’t functioning like this. I hear about just as many families that have members who are “too busy” to get together.
If elders weren’t around to organize family meals and be a magnet for socializing as larger family groups, would younger Boomers, Gen-Xers and young adults even get together? I see examples of how extended family members do not get together anymore once grandparents die. Sometimes cousins don’t even invite other cousins to their weddings. Once that pattern is set, those who marry later are less inclined to change the trend. When family members live near by and can attend, funerals are the best chance we have to meet family members who share the same grandparents or great-grandparents.
And it’s not just the younger set who are not socializing. Elders are also talking about how their contemporaries don’t connect via phone or by E-mail. It seems that across the generations our social skills have taken a turn down a more insular path these days. We are more connected and yet are we?
I rarely saw my cousins and family members as I moved around regularly in Canada and overseas. I enjoyed relatively infrequent opportunities to socialize with cousins my own age, or older, and to play with younger cousins. Yet when I see the many cousins quotes that are circulated, I can’t say that I relate because I simply didn’t see my cousins that often. I do know many people who grew up playing with cousins in their extended family. I like the idea of cousins playing together and having the opportunity to get to know each other. From my own personal experience raising two young children, I just don’t think that is going to happen for them. They will not grow up sharing these quotes on their social media accounts.
Have you noticed there’s loads of enthusiasm to get together when children are small, adorable babies? Once that phase passes – as it does within a few months – I don’t want my children to be getting together with family members out of a feeling of familial duty and obligation.
Family demographics are changing. People are living longer and having less children. The relationships structure of a family is changing as a result. There are less cousins with whom you can play and more adults with whom you can have close relationships. Add in the fact that families move around and, in some cases, they don’t even live close to their relatives. However many people do, at least, live in the same province as their other family members.
Our families might not have the traditions of some of the family members you hear by the water cooler but it’s never too late to develop new ones. And while we’re at it – let’s not penalize all members of our family if we don’t get along with one of their relations. Let’s not include them in Facebook culls or avoid accepting their invitations to come by for tea. Similarly let’s not pass along our dislike of a family member’s style and outlook to our children simply because it’s different from our own.
Loose lips loosen family bonds.
When I was in my late 20s I wrote a letter in which I made mention about how busy people were dashing about. I also know that my War Baby parents (on the older side of the Hippie generation) were busy juggling jobs, parenting commitments and socializing at a fast and furious pace. This generation has slowed down post 2000 – sort of. It seems that every generation has a long list of reasons why they are too busy.
Should we use that as an excuse to not get together? Shouldn’t we, as the adults in the equation, make opportunities and make it a priority to get together more for our children’s sake? For our own sake?
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