Extended family. Close family that lives far away. Family you don't know well. Family.
Visit family when you can.
I am not talking about trips with the sole purpose of spending time with family, though it is a good idea to squeeze a few of those in throughout the years, as well. My husband's uncle and his family came from California to Illinois for a trip to spend time with family last summer and it was such a enjoyable visit being able to hang out with them and play tourist with them, and we made great memories that the youngest of our families will have to build on. We often take short trips for family events like graduations and
weddings and parties, and it is worth the effort to make time for those
visits, as well. But we all know that time and money are limited resources and there are so many places we want to see and so many things to do that not every vacation will be a family reunion and not every family event can be attended.
What has been on my mind lately is when your travels to other destinations bring you nearby to family which you do not get to see often. When that happens, make an effort. Even if it may be a bit of an inconvenience to your travel schedule. Even if it may be a bit of an inconvenience to their daily routine. At least try to seize the opportunity to see family face-to-face for a few minutes or a meal.
My cousin and his family from Florida were taking a vacation to Chicago earlier this year and passing through. I am grateful that they reached out to want to visit with us, though I will admit that at first I felt a bit unsure. I had not seen him in nearly 20 years, I had never met his wife nor any of his kids and we had not really kept in touch in any way (I wasn't even sure I knew all their names). He was practically a stranger at this point. But, he made the effort and so my family & I made the effort. And I was quite glad we did. After introductions, our time was spent reminiscing about family we shared and catching up on what was happening in our lives now. It was just a short visit over lunch, but in that time he ceased to seem like a stranger and I was reminded of how strong a family bond can be even after years of separation.
More recently, we traveled to southern Illinois and one route home would bring us right through the town where my grandmother lives and just a little over an hour from where my aunt lives. We chose to take that route and get on the road a little later than we would have otherwise. My grandma chose to rearrange her Sunday schedule. My aunt chose to put off some chores and drive over an hour each way. We all chose family. It was powerful in a quiet Sunday lunch kind of way. And for my children it was one more shared experience with these loved ones who are far in distance but close in heart; this simple lunch will be another memory they have of their great-grandma and great-aunt. It warms my heart to think back on the visits I had as a child when we would stop to visit my great-grandmother and to know that my children will one day do the same.
When I think about why we travel with our young kids, it is clearly to expose them to experiences and places beyond their everyday, but it is also to spend time together as a family, making memories. When we have the chance to include family from beyond their everyday into the making of those memories, I think we should take it.
We need to be the example and instill in them that family matters. We need to show them that family is worth a slight inconvenience to the schedule or routine. It won't always work out and we may not be able to make all the stops, but the visits we can fit in will be worth it.
When my kids grow up and maybe even my grandkids grow to be adults and the branches of our family tree grow and expand along with them, I would like to think that if any member of that extended family were passing through, that they would want to stop and say hello to me. I would want to be a real person in a real memory to them.
Kids need the opportunity to make a memory with these far-off family members; to know them in-the-flesh; to see them as they really are.