If you've never seen the show before, it is the ongoing story of a family, the Bravermans. There is a mom and dad and 4 adult children, each with their own families. Each episode include stories revolving around one or more of the family members and the current goings-on in their lives, and it's like we are right there with them. In fact, during most episodes, it is inevitable that I have a good cry. All of the family lives roughly in the same area of California and although they have their separate lives, they interact regularly. Don't worry, I'm not going to rehash the whole show for you, but throughout the program, you recognize that this family has ups and downs, good times and bad, and even though they don't always like each other, they do love each other and in the end...they are a supportive family.
I think one of the reasons Roger and I have enjoyed this show so much is because we want and hope that our family has that same closeness. Now, we recognize that the characters on the show are fake and that it is TV and real life is not like TV, but we can dream. I mean, sometimes our family doesn't like each other too, so maybe we're on the right track. In all seriousness, one of our main goals when we entered into our marriage and continuing still today, is how can we take these five people (us and our kids) and their baggage and make a family. We don't want to half do it either. We want kids that when they argue, 10 minutes later they're laughing and playing. We want aunts and uncles and grandparents who accept each child as though they've been there all along. We want a spouse that loves the 'other' kids unconditionally...just like they are theirs. Maybe we are idealistic, but I believe that with hard work, time, and two parents on the same page leading the way it can be done.
At this point in our lives, and in the lives of our children, the task seems daunting. All of our kids are in their very early twenties, and living their lives here, there, and everywhere. For them, it is a time for discovery of who they are and what they want in life. It is a time for them to find their way on their own (mostly). It was 'easier' working on building our family ties when the kids were younger. They were here, most of the time, we had more control over what they did when, and we could make them spend family time together. Now, it takes a concerted effort to have that family time. Even at Christmas this year, we only had about 2 hours where all five of us were together.
So, what's the solution? I don't know. For us, it's a work in progress, but we are trying different things. In part, making ourselves available to our kids when they need or want to be with us is a start (within reason, of course, I mean we do have our own lives). Also, making sure that each of them know that when we invite them to do something, we are inviting their significant others or a good friend to join them. We understand that those relationships are important to them, so they are important to us too. Maybe it's also having a dedicated 'family dinner day'; a standing invitation for a particular day or night of the week, where dinner will be available and as many or as few as can make it are welcome.
Even though I don't have a solution, what I do know is that our family is important to us, and we will keep trying different things to keep building and bonding until we find something that works. Like I said, we are a work in progress, but with two parents on the same page working towards the same goal, we are headed in the right direction. Whatever your desire is for your family, the key is to make sure you and your spouse are a united front.