A Year of Gifts
Let me start by saying I have been wanting to write about the gift of family for months but I’ve been hesitant. “Family” means something different to every single person reading this post. Some of you truly feel your family is the greatest blessing in your life. Count me in that group. But others have a different view of family. For some, thinking about their family can be extremely painful. What constitutes a family will also be different for everyone. The people each of us might consider to be our family members often extend beyond blood relations.
I’ve decided to keep this as simple and straightforward as I can, despite the fact family dynamics are anything but simple. In a subject full of minefields, I’ll limit my comments to why I personally feel my family is my greatest blessing and I’ll share some of the things I try to do to protect and maintain the sanctity of this group.
I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents were loving role models and they maintained reasonably high expectations for the three of us. I was the oldest with two younger brothers and we grew up doing many of the same things some of you might have spent your childhood doing. There were games, fights, lots of laughter and a few skinned knees. Much of that time is a blur but some things remain crystal clear. What could be more fun than a mean game of Anti-I-Over? We’d split into teams, send each team to opposite sides of the large, free-standing garage Dad built, and throw a ball over to each other. If you caught it, you were supposed to run around the building and try to tag someone on the other team. You could go either direction and the other team wouldn’t know you caught it until you came whipping around the corner. The thrill was in the anticipation, despite the occasional crashes.
For us, summer vacations always revolved around visiting more family. Long road trips, two weeks away, swimming pools and hot, humid summer days stand out in my mind. Holidays have remained pretty much the same since we were kids. Traditions run strong in our family and the predictability provides stability and close ties.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand how family dynamics constantly evolve. Ties with extended family can begin to stretch thin when life gets hectic but those special bonds seldom snap.
If we eventually become parents, we keep busy raising our own kids and the years fly by. All too soon, our kids reach young adulthood and branch out into their own lives, requiring less of our time. As our children have been growing up, our parents have been growing older. Many of us pass from one season of raising kids straight into another season of assisting our parents as they age. Where once we needed our parents to grow and thrive, now they may come to depend on us to do the same.
The blessings come from the memories we build and the years we have together. Sometimes the years are too short. We lose people too soon. (So… if you have a family member that drives you a little batty, just let it go. Focus on the positive and tune out the negative.)
Strong families can provide a solid foundation for everything else in life. I’ve always tried to keep family a top priority in our home and in my life. It isn’t always perfect and I often slip up but I never stop trying. I watched my parents put family first and I know we owe much to them for the example they set. We were always watching them, just as our kids are always watching us. They watch not because they are judging our actions but because they need help to figure out this crazy world we live in. They’ll emulate what we do. I think one of the best things you can do for your children and younger generations is to strive to live a life you are proud of and that you wouldn’t be afraid to have them copy. Set good examples and resist making poor choices you’ll come to regret, especially knowing they may follow in your footsteps.
Does it help you to know someone is always watching? As I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize two things about this. First, I try not to waste too much time or energy worrying about what others think of me. Second, instead of viewing it as a negative, I try to think of it as an opportunity. I push myself harder to chase my dreams and live every day in a positive way because my kids never stop watching the example I set by how I live my life. Never perfect but always trying.
I’ve never stopped watching how my parents deal with life’s struggles either. I have watched them work hard through the years. They purposefully chose careers that wouldn’t detract from our family life even if they weren’t the most lucrative or flashy of jobs. They did things that helped everyday people improve their own lives. And when our mother faced a life-threatening illness, we all watched how this amazingly strong woman, who had spent her life helping kids, would face her own mortality. How would Dad handle it? Could he fulfill those marriage vows he’d made some fifty odd years earlier to love and honor her “in sickness and in health”?
As had been the case in all the years leading up to this extremely difficult time in our lives, our parents modeled grace under pressure. I miss Mom every single day, and I know that will never change, but I cherish the memories of our times together and am eternally grateful to her for showing me what is important in life. Dad did an amazing job helping her. Now he is finding his way through days that look so different than they did only a few short years ago. And we are still watching and learning.
Raising kids isn’t easy. It never has been. Whether you are a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or a close family friend, we all play a role in helping to raise the next generation. And I don’t think we are ever “done”. We set examples by how we live our lives until we leave this earth.
Families are complicated, sometimes incredibly frustrating, and one of our greatest blessings. When you are part of a strong family unit, and you do your part to help maintain that family, you’ll always be part of a team that has your back. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Whether your family consists of you and one other person, a huge group of individuals related by both blood and friendship, or some combination in-between, treat your family as the blessing they are and feel gratitude every single day for sharing this precious thing called life with them. If today you don’t feel like you are part of a family, start working to create one. It’s never too late. Maybe it looks different from what you used to think “family” meant but find that team. Don’t go it alone.
The gift of family is one of the beauties of life. Cherish it. I know I do. Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!