Family celebrations are important; for the kids and for adults. Our tribe, our clan, our loved ones with our shared histories and childhood experiences is unique. We need to get together to celebrate those milestones of births, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and yes, funerals.
When you have remarriages, step and half-siblings and ex-husbands and wives, it can become problematic. Who do you include in these all-important family celebrations and who gets excluded?
If there was a contentious divorce or custody battle, there can be lasting feelings of bitterness and resentment towards ex-spouses. Should that deprive a child of having both their parents present when they win that sports medal, or graduate from high school? Separate celebrations are possible with each faction of the family but I believe a better solution is to be an example to your young son or daughter of what being a mature adult is all about.
I’d like to suggest that for that couple of hours, during that event, that you act like grown-ups and stop being selfish for a while. Make this about the celebration, not about you. Divorced parents can agree that they are both proud of the accomplishments of their kids and both want to celebrate that. This is a great way of showing that your love for your child is greater than your bitterness about the divorce. You may be surprised to find that your ex’s new love is really a very nice person.
When it’s an adult family celebration you should try to include everyone; even cousin Dan who drinks too much; or Aunt Suzy who never stops talking about her cat. Families aren’t perfect; they’re a cross section of every type and kind of person. The common thread is our shared experiences and stories that we share. This celebration, this holiday, wedding or anniversary might be the only time that your family is going to get together in a year.
Cousins need to see each other, spend time with their grandparents and elders in the family before they’re gone and the chance has been missed. Who decides who gets excluded from the family celebrations anyway? Is it the host or hostess? Family is family whether you like them or not. It’s just as important to show your children an example of inclusion and tolerance by inviting some of the outlaws in the family to the event.
This is not to say that you should be hanging out with toxic or dangerous people. Family celebrations are not the place to resolve problems or “have it out” with someone. You can include someone with an understanding that there are ground rules and boundaries that will make it a fun and happy event for all involved. If you feel that including a certain person will guarantee a fight or a problem, don’t invite them. Better yet, try to resolve those issues privately so that you can feel good about including that family member next time.
Our time is short here and family is so important. You never know when will be the last time you see someone. So show love, forgive and resolve those grudges. Be the bigger person and be accepting of change and new partners for your exes. Be inclusive and do your best to celebrate all of the family milestones together .Be each other’s support and biggest cheerleader in life. That makes for a happier family and happier life for everyone.