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Staying Close to Extended Family

>> Feb 2, 2013

Ever since I was born I have spent a great deal of time with family- all kinds of family. Both Mom and Dad had a couple of siblings and they had children. Both of their parents were living and they were really involved in our lives. We had cousins everywhere and we spent as much time together as possible. I have some wonderful and not so wonderful memories of growing up that include all the branches of our family tree. I would not trade one memory because regardless of whether it was good times or bad these memories bond us together and make us even closer.
I am a big proponent of spending time with extended family if you did not already gather that in the first paragraph. There are times I question why but I always go back for more and I am very thankful to have so much love in my life and it is continuing through the lives of my children and their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents as well. It is not always easy getting together with extended family if they do not live near by and sometimes it is not easy getting along with them when they do live nearby. I believe that the good far outweighs the bad and that it is worth all the extra time and effort to keep family close.

When I was very young we lived in the same town as my Mom’s family. She has a brother and a sister who were married with children and her Mom, Step-Dad, and her Grandmother lived there as well. We spent a lot of time with all of them separately and many times the whole group would gather. If you have an extended family of your own you can imagine what it was like to have all the cousins together in the same place. There were seven of us all total during that time and we were not a quiet group.

We were always getting in trouble for something, mostly just getting on the adults nerves. One particular occasion stands out in my mind. We were over at my Aunt and Uncle’s house and we had been told to go down and play in the basement. They had a nice basement for playing games and running around. One thing led to another as they often do and my brother, the oldest, somehow caused one of the cousins to cry, which he often did. Then it seemed to be a chain reaction from one to two and even three.

Well, the first one to come bounding down the stairs was Uncle Mike who was the easy going uncle who danced with you in the kitchen and always had a smile. We told him we would be good and all was well, no worries. After he left we did okay for a while and then things started up again. This time it was Uncle Bill, who quite frankly, could go either way but he was in good form and gave us all a cheery tone and a smile so we again assured that we would be better. We did alright for a short time and the noise level again went up but this time it was my Dad. My Dad did not often get up at all and if he was going to get up he was going to take care of business and everyone knew it. When my Dad came down the stairs everyone scattered and there was not a peep to be heard. I do recall that my Brother did not fair too well that evening and we finally got the message. We all laugh about it today but at the time it was no laughing matter. Good times.

Another occasion comes to mind and this one is a real doozy. My Grandparents were having a home built on a cul-de-sac which was being built on a sort of hill. They lived right in the middle of the cul-de-sac circle at the top of the hill in such a way that you could drive right up the street and dead end right in their driveway. There were many houses being built on this particular street and there was still one vacant lot down the street. All the adults went into the partially built house to look around; the windows were not even installed as yet. They left all of the cousins in the car except one who was an infant and stayed in my Aunt’s arms. I am thinking my oldest Brother was like seven or eight, myself and one cousin were five or six, and there was one four and one three year old. We were just hanging out in the car waiting, watching our folks look around. They were not but about ten feet away so they were keeping an eye on us off and on. Well, big Brother of mine was fooling with the gear shift and keep in mind this was in the very early sixties. Somehow he got it into neutral and we start to back out of the driveway, slowly at first but then we really began to gain momentum. When someone finally turned around to look I will never forget the looks on their faces. I felt no fear; I had no idea what was going on. I do however think my Brother had a clue because he was busy trying to get the gear shift back where it was and had an awfully panicked look on his face. All three men came bounding out the windows and running at full force after the car as it headed for an eight lane highway at the end of this street. We would have made it too except the good Lord was looking out for us and the car began to turn and we turned in to the only vacant lot on the street and came to a stop. To this day I am not sure if my brother turned the wheel or an angel did it but either way it was the Lord.

That same brother, as a teenager, ended up sticking all of us cousins in a crawl space under a house we moved to later that did not have a basement. A tornado siren went off and he was in charge. There was a small light and lots of bugs. He somehow locked us in and went back up to the house and had a nice little party with some of his friends while the moms and dads were gone. Ah, memories. And no, he did not end up in prison; he actually makes a wonderful living with four children of his own. And he just can not understand why they are all so rebellious as teens! Life sure goes around and comes right back to where it started.

We talk about these episodes frequently when we see each other and the folks have never forgotten either. We all wonder how my brother made it through childhood. All the times we spent together brought us closer, even the bad ones. We had lots of great times too but it always seems when we get together that these are the topics we end up talking about.

It is a wonderful feeling to have people close to you to connect with outside of your immediate family. They are not just cousins but they are also friends and because we are connected by blood it creates an even greater bond. I believe we need family around to encourage us, to protect us, and to make memories with. I believe our children need to experience this as well. That is why I do my best to meet with extended family once or twice a year and I also do my best to connect to my nieces and nephews. Sometimes young people need someone to talk to that is an adult they trust but is not mom and dad. I would like that to be me and not a stranger. It is a family thing, it is a love thing.

Author Bio:
Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

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