Extended family / Family

Redefining Family

This past weekend, we went to a cabin with our friends–seven kids and eight adults in a space that is beginning to feel too small to hold us. We’ve been going to the cabin with this group for years and, more recently, some of those trips have taken on new meaning as we celebrate and honor each kid as they turn 13. This was our fourth celebration and there are only three more left to go.

We all moved in practiced ways, carrying things in from cars, putting food away, and choosing bedrooms–kids in the loft, adults scattered in the remaining spaces. On the first night, the kids sat in the loft, talking and laughing loudly while we sat downstairs, and I was struck by how much our roles have changed over the years. I remembered Pack-N-Plays and bedtime reading and putting small children to bed over and over again, and they learned to be quiet and sleep near their friends. The adults took turns going upstairs to quiet them, to sing, to rub circles on small backs until there was finally silence. They stay up later now but require less of us which seems like a fair trade.

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PHOTO CREDIT: KRISTIN SWANSON

On Saturday, they went outside and did what they’ve always done–hovered near the lake, sat on the dock together, went for walks, swam. I looked out and watched as they slung their arms around each others’ shoulders, as they made sure the youngest of the group were near. There were no disputes to mediate, no need for reminders to include everyone. They have their own rhythm and their dance is one created from years of time spent together at home and in this place. I remembered tiny life jackets and holding small hands as we walked on the dock. I remembered small children wrapped in towels sitting in my lap as we stared at the lake. It’s hard to fathom that now those babies look after each other and even more shocking than that is the fact that they remember to take their own towels and keep track of them.

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PHOTO CREDIT: VIKKI REICH

Later that day, exhausted from a day spent outside, they lay together on the floor–limbs entwined, bodies covering bodies. When they were young and we shared childcare, one of my friends said that she wanted them to someday lay together like a pile of puppies, to feel that close and comfortable with each other. That wish came true and every time it happens, I am in awe.

At various points this weekend, I looked around at the adults–some I’ve known for 25 years, some for 18– and thought of all we’ve been through together. We knew each other before kids. There have been break-ups and divorces and career changes and deaths, but there have also been weddings and births and so many joyous milestones. We have fought and cried and forgiven and laughed. We know each others’ weaknesses and flaws and still manage to love each other. This is the comfort of old friends. They can dismiss our less than stellar traits because they are only a tiny part of the whole.

I am hard on myself as a parent. I rarely give myself credit for the good I do because I can easily find all the ways in which I could do better. But this weekend, I looked at my friends and our kids and realized how much we’ve done right. This is family and I am better for having every one of these people in my life.

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6 Comments

  1. This is beautiful. What a special place, and special memories that are being made. One day your kids will take their kids together and long for them to pile together like puppies and they’ll be grateful for their parents.

  2. This sounds like paradise.

  3. Dear Vikki, you article is beautiful and the message in it is even more beautiful! Thanks for bring in a smile to my face!

  4. Pingback: In My Own Words | Up Popped A Fox

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