Our home is often referred to as the “Key B&B” because it not only looks like it could be a Bed and Breakfast – it serves as one to our family and friends on an ongoing basis. We host everything from afternoon barbecues to five-day extravaganzas where we hunker down and never even leave the house. And why would we? With a continuous parade of food and family fun who needs the outside world!? Or changing out of swim suits or pajamas for that matter?
With some planning and a helpful husband it really isn’t that big of a deal to host. And truly, opening our home to others makes us happy because it seems to make others happy. Making happy is low pressure. We can deliver on that pretty easily. Throw another cobbler in the oven, put out some fresh fish tacos and fire up the blender and you pretty much make happy. But when it’s a long-anticipated family reunion of sorts, with big expectations and even bigger personalities in the mix, the fish taco fail safe recipe is not a sure thing.
This past week was one of those times. My sister in law was coming for a long-anticipated, off-then-on-again visit with my two nephews who are off the charts on the cuteness scale. They’re pure butter. I can barely keep the barrage of kisses and hug squeezes to an acceptable level. I mean, seriously, look at these faces!
Anyway, since our visits are infrequent and this crazy life has thrown in crazy circumstance there was high emotion and high expectation and that alone can be a fast track to derailing a trip quickly. I was feeling the pressure. I wanted magic moments for my MA who was desperate for some baby bonding time. I hoped for Pops to see how important it is to squeeze on the actual babies who are usually just on the other end of a computer screen. My kids were anxious for the family time with their cousins. And we were all clamoring to give my sister in law a much-needed change of scenery and some heart-felt love to roll around in.
Our plan was to eat, and laugh and hang and just be together! And boy did we! We ate. We ate often and we ate a LOT! There were three squares a day plus snacks and desserts. We laughed. We splashed for hours in the pool and at the beach and we shared sunsets and sandy walks. We somehow really got it all in there.
But we also had our dicey moments. Like the littlest one exercising his lungs at the highest pitch possible. I mean blood curdling “someone just got murdered” screeching for hours on end. If there were wallpaper on my walls it surely would’ve peeled by now. Bless the sweet boy!! Or then there was Pops…who kinda forgets that other people are actually here and he gets lost in his own moments. Like blaring Latin jazz music on the Lido Deck while he enjoys the pool by himself because all others with normal hearing had to run inside to save themselves. Yeah…that was a three-hour, one-man party. Or the ADHD tween that decides he doesn’t want to play with the three-year-old cousin because he can only do the social thing for so long. Or the Nana that can’t help but hire a photographer because she has to capture the moment and get a photo with all her grandbabies. And we all KNOW the pressure leading up to and during a family photo session. There should be special muscle relaxers given as you book a session! Night. Mare. Wait…add the littlest cutie screeching THROUGHOUT said photo session. THE. WHOLE. TIME. Now Nana is looking weary with worry at how the shoot is going to turn out. And the teen is starting to complain: “Why are we having to do this?” And the tween goes missing because there’s rocks to explore. Pops is just mesmerized by the sunset sky and literally gets lost in it and is oblivious to everything else.
Sister in law is hiding behind a rock in hopes that the littlest cutie stops screeching if she’s out of sight. “SMILE!!!!” When it’s the last thing anyone wants to do. Too staged. Too strained. Too posed. These are precisely the reasons why family get togethers can go wrong. They are pushed past what comes natural. You can almost hear the screams through the photo.
My parent’s 17-year-old dog that leaves a trail of pee and poop. Yeah…that’s stressful. Even annoying. And it happened more times than we can count. But THAT is not what makes family time go south. Knowing ahead of time and accepting that a dog that’s older than Abraham himself is going to mess on my carpet continually is what gives me the mindset to shrug it off and just deal when it happens. Knowing and accepting ahead of time that Pops will get lost in his own moments and may or may not notice a near drowning child in arms reach helps me get past it. Remembering that Nana will thoroughly question my practices regarding the disposal of any food items that have been out on a buffet for the better part of a day helps me shrug it off. These are the things we KNOW will happen and accepting those ahead of time makes it inconsequential when it happens.
Are you having family over and anticipating a little tension? Make simple goals. Goals that are actually in YOUR grasp. My goals were to provide meals that kept everyone going and to open our home and anything we have to be at the disposal of our guests for their enjoyment. At the end of the day these are the only things I can control. Also, and this one is important so lean in here: BE EXPECTANT OF THE SCENARIOS YOU KNOW ARE GOING TO HAPPEN. This is your family and/or your good friends and you didn’t just meet them yesterday. You are well aware of the things that can and WILL happen. Just be waiting for the doozies, then cross them off the list when they happen and move on.
Expectations are our worst enemy. We tend to build them up based on people that don’t exist in our circles – only in our minds. Then we impose those expectations which makes things strained because it just isn’t our natural way.
You can actually have a load of fun with the wacko people that are under your roof – just take your head out of the clouds, plan for reality AND ENJOY YOUR FAMILY JUST AS THEY ARE. Take the time you’ve been given together and make it special by keeping it real. It can actually be spectacular and wonderful. Dare I say PRECIOUS?
If we look past our expectations we are free to catch the wonderful and sweet that will just happen on it’s own, because every family has it’s own brand of beautiful.
What’s your best tip for keeping things afloat when your house is full of family? What’s your biggest fail?