Two of my three daughters, their boyfriends, and I got lost in the world of old home videos last night. Aside from the horrors of big 80’s hair (What was I thinking?), it was a fun walk down memory lane. I’ve avoided these home movies for a long time – since my mom passed away in 2006. I was afraid I’d just cry all the way through them. Oddly enough, seeing her so full of life again made me smile rather than cry.
It was the same with my dad, my mother-in-law and her husband (adorable man!), and my sister-in-law. Most of the people we’ve lost in our family died suddenly and unexpectedly. Something did hit me during one particular video, though. If (then) someone had pulled me and my big hair to the side and pointed to my parents, my in-laws, and my sister-in-law, and said, “You will have lost them all by the time your youngest daughter, Stephany, is 18,” it would have hit me like a giant oak tree had fallen on my head… which would have hurt a lot less.
Given the fact that none of these loved ones were able to attend her 18th birthday party, I can say, without hesitation, that the impossible becomes possible on a daily basis.
Then I wondered… if this same someone had been able to convince me that they were telling the truth, what would I have done differently? That is, aside from convincing my sister-in-law to take a safer job and hawking my mom’s diabetic diet (the little sneak), the usual things came to mind: I’d call more, I’d drop by for more visits, I’d bake goodies for them more often, etc.
Fortunately (thanks be to God), we were very close with our loved ones. Even when – like all families – our lovable crazies were at their craziest, love never left the room.
Something I’m very thankful for is the fact that when we’d go visit my parents or in-laws – we’d sit, talk with them, watch television, eat, etc. It’s a very, very sad reality that a lot of people – when they visit older relatives – never even sit down or take their coat off!
They do what I call “Drive By” visits. They visit just long enough to be able to say they DID visit.
That’s kind of doing things for the wrong reasons, isn’t it?
“Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.” – Paul Pearshall
During the time of year when we’re all thinking about family more than ever, I think it’s a perfect time to take a quick inventory of the way we treat one another. Our loved ones are our treasure and we should treat them as such. Below are a few ways that we can begin to nurture our relationships. While that may sound like a corny concept, it’s actually a golden key to true happiness.
Ways to Improve Your Family’s Relationships:
- Let bygones be bygones. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter who said what, when they said it, where they were when they said it, etc? At some point, someone has to be the mature adult and close the door on the past. It’s the only way to open the one to the future.
- Never let anyone feel like they’re nothing but a bother to you. One day, if God allows you to live long enough, you may be the one in their place. Treat them as you hope your loved ones will one day treat you.
- Give more than you get. If you’re one of those people who makes everything about you… wake up and realize that it isn’t. It really isn’t all about you.
- When you do give more than you get – don’t keep score. If you’re tallying up the number of times you mowed your parent’s lawn, you’re not doing it for the right reasons. What’s more, if you’re throwing it in their face… well, let’s just say this, is that the person you REALLY want to be?
- Remember, your time means more to your loved ones than anything. Setting aside a few hours to take someone out to dinner may not seem like much to you, but it could mean the world to someone else.
- If you have a relative who lives alone, EXPECT them to be very chatty when you’re talking to them. NEVER make them feel self conscious about it. Let them talk, listen to what they say, and if (okay… when) they repeat themselves, act as though it’s the first time you heard it!
- Give attention to what really matters. If your son or daughter comes into a room and begins to talk to you about something (it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy band, girl band, anatomy class, or their cute new co-worker) – put down what you’re doing… physically and mentally. They are all that matters, and I cannot say that often enough.
- If you have ever done anything that you feel guilty about, apologize. Send flowers or a gift card if you want to – but, mostly, just say, “I’m sorry. I was a jerk.” No buts. No blame shifting. No excuses. Admit you messed up and vow to never do it again.
- If it matters to your loved one, it should matter to you. When my daughters were pre-schoolers, I knew each Sesame Street character on sight and could recite the Dr. Seuss books from memory. When they were teenagers, I knew each and every Backstreet Boy’s name, as well as each member of ‘N Sync. I knew where they were from, what colors they liked, etc. I don’t think I can recite Dr. Seuss anymore but I can still tell Chris from Howie, Justin from Brian, and Kevin from Joey. Lance and Nick? Come on…. that’s like so easy.
- Don’t yell! Yelling isn’t cool! It just makes you look like a loud 2 year old throwing a tantrum and, unless that’s the look you’re going for, you don’t need that in your life.
- Don’t nitpick – nitpicking is ugly. When you start picking people apart over little insignificant details, remind yourself of something that’s pretty nuts… you’re just trying to get everyone to look like, dress like, and think like you. If you only want to be surrounded by yourself, maybe you should become a hermit.
- Tell the people in your life that you love them every single day. When parting, loving words should be the only ones spoken.
- Show the people in your life that you love them every single day. Some would say “showing” is more important than “saying,” and I can certainly see their case. However, sometimes what people think of as “showing” is really just that… a show. Not always – but sometimes people do seemingly great things just do be SEEN doing seemingly great things. The true magic happens when showing and saying are combined and when the showing is done with one motivation and one only – because you love them and want to do things for them. Not for “credit,” not to show someone else up, not for anything in return… simply out of love.
- Make an effort to get along with everyone. If you give anyone in particular (usually in-laws, let’s be honest) a continual cold shoulder or cause tension in the room – you aren’t hurting this person the most. Let me break it to you – they probably don’t like you any more than you like them! So, if you make yourself look like a jackass, that’s bonus points for them. Ammo, as it were. Who DO you actually hurt the most when you act like a snivling brat? Those you love the most. You know, the ones who just want – more than anything – for everyone to get along and be happy. Your shenanigans hurt the people you’d never, ever want to hurt and they hurt them deeply.
While we all want our loved ones around us forever — telling and re-telling stories for years on end! — we know that is not possible. I’m not suggesting that you go about your life focusing on LOSING your loved ones, however. Far from it! I’m suggesting you go about your life focusing on LOVING your loved ones.
There will come a day when you are eternally grateful that you showed them how much you loved them when you had the chance.
How many loved ones can you show your love to this week??!